Frito-Lay will build 7 public CNG fueling stations this year

Plano-based Frito-Lay will break ground on seven compressed natural gas fueling stations across the country this year, including one in Texas.

The snack maker will use the CNG stations for its own fleet of delivery trucks but they also will be open to the public. The Texas fueling station will be in Rosenberg just west of Houston.

More fleets are going CNG, such as Dallas-based AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), United Postal Service, Dallas Area Rapid Transit and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport because it saves money, has environmental benefits and uses a domestic fuel source.

Range anxiety has been the biggest concern because the fueling infrastructure is limited to certain areas. The more fueling stations that get built, the more likely fleets are to get on board.

Frito-Lay wanted to take the lead on building CNG stations as part of a larger sustainability plan, which also includes electric trucks, said Mike O'Connell, senior director for fleet operations. The delivery trucks travel 125,000 miles a year.

The long-term plan calls for up to 28 CNG fueling stations around the country.

"With our scale, we're trying to help the industry evolve and build out the infrastructure faster," he said.

A new Cummins CNG engine will come out next year capable of hauling heavier loads that will garner even more interest from trucking companies, O'Connell said.

"The industry is going to evolve much more quickly next year with that new engine," he said.

Frito-Lay already boasts the seventh largest private fleet in the county and plans to expand it to 208 CNG trucks by the end of 2013. That will bring the total amount of CNG trucks to 20 percent of the fleet, cutting more than 7,863 metric tons of carbon emissions.

The CNG trucks primarily haul products from Frito-Lay factories to distribution centers using a set route, O'Connell said. Initially, the CNG trucks stayed in areas where the fueling stations already were built in California. This expansion will allow them to go around the country.

Two companies won the bids to build the CNG stations.

Trillium CNG will build stations in Jonesboro, Ark., Orlando, Fla., Charlotte, N.C., Perry Georgia and the Texas station. Questar Corp. (NYSE: STR) will build stations in Killingly, Conn., and Topeka, Kan.

Frito Lay also will open three stations inside its distribution centers that aren't open to the public. Company executives celebrated the grand opening of the first private station in Beloit, Wis., on Wednesday.

The 10 total fueling stations will be able to pump 2 million gallon equivalents of natural gas per year. The number could be as high as 5 million by 2018.

By year's end, Frito-Lay will have 280 electric box trucks that haul snacks from distribution centers to retailers. O'Connell said he's exploring other energy and money saving ideas, including aerodynamics, fuel economy driver habits and engine design.

This article was first published by Dallas Business Journal.

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