Roush CleanTech is bridging that gap making old fuel options renewed all over again. - Photo: Work Truck/Roush CleanTech

Roush CleanTech is bridging that gap making old fuel options renewed all over again. 

Photo: Work Truck/Roush CleanTech

With their emissions-reducing and cost-cutting benefits, conventional propane vehicles have been available for medium-duty truck fleets for over a decade. But what is the next new advancement when it comes to propane?

Renewable propane.

Many truck fleet operators are interested in how it will benefit their fleets compared with conventional propane and other alternative fuels.

Let’s explore:

The Renewed Interest in Propane

A non-fossil fuel that is produced from 100% raw materials, renewable propane is commonly produced from feedstock like animal fat, wood waste, and cooking oils.

By comparison, conventional propane is a byproduct of natural gas processing, petroleum, and, to a lesser extent, oil refining.

There is a growing demand for renewable propane, also known as biopropane, especially among truck fleet operators, transit, and school buses.

Renewable propane has virtually zero emission levels and dramatically reduces greenhouse gases. Plus, it helps meet ever-cleaner product demand. This is especially important for fleets whose parent companies have emissions mandates.

Renewable propane supply is increasing due to substantial investments by the propane industry. For example, AmeriGas entered into an agreement in early 2022 with Global Clean Energy Holdings to produce and distribute renewable propane. It is projected to produce approximately 13 million gallons of renewable propane in its first year.

U.S. refineries in California, Texas, and Louisiana have the existing capacity to produce renewable propane as part of their renewable diesel production systems. Globally, production capacity at 15 processing plants, including those in the U.S., is about 100 million gallons per year and growing fast, according to the World LP Gas Association.

The cost to produce renewable propane is higher than conventional propane, but producers have instituted favorable pricing to increase adoption.

Fleet operators including Hi-Pro, Inc. see the potential of renewable propane due to its lowered carbon emissions. - Photo: Roush CleanTech

Fleet operators including Hi-Pro, Inc. see the potential of renewable propane due to its lowered carbon emissions.

Photo: Roush CleanTech

The Benefits of Renewable Propane for Work Truck Fleets

Renewable propane is positioned to be the next evolution in U.S. fleet vehicle fuels because it is clean and economical. And as demand increases, it’s more commercially available. It can be used as a “drop-in” to conventional propane since renewable propane’s chemical structure, and physical properties are the same. This means current propane vehicles don’t need alterations to operate.

Truck fleet operators like McAbee Trucking or Hi-Pro, Inc. see the potential of renewable propane because it produces even fewer carbon emissions than already substantially low conventional propane.

Renewable propane has a carbon intensity of as much as four times lower than conventional propane and five times lower than diesel.

Renewable propane made from raw, used cooking oil has an average carbon intensity score of 30. By comparison, conventional propane has a carbon intensity of 83, diesel 95, and gasoline 96.

Understanding the Renewable Propane Supply

Because renewable propane can be used in any existing conventional propane engine and propane infrastructure, truck fleet operators can easily implement renewable propane into their propane vehicles as a greater supply of renewable propane becomes available.

For example:

  • U-Haul purchased its first million gallons of renewable propane in 2020 and 2021 and added another million gallons to sell at its California stores.
  • Virginia received its first gallons of renewable propane in 2021 to fuel police vehicles and buses in Petersburg.
  • And, California-based AltAir is coproducing renewable propane while making commercial-grade renewable jet fuel. The company is exploring the potential to recover renewable propane for use in medium-duty vehicles equipped with newly certified low-nitrogen-oxide propane engines.
Most, if not all, renewable propane will be American-made, providing fleets additional access to domestic fuel. - Photo: Roush CleanTech

Most, if not all, renewable propane will be American-made, providing fleets additional access to domestic fuel.

Photo: Roush CleanTech

What About Infrastructure?

Renewable propane doesn’t need changes to the existing nationwide delivery infrastructure for one simple reason: Renewable propane is precisely the same chemical formula as conventional propane — C3H8.

There is a misconception that renewable propane is chemically different from conventional propane. It’s not. Some companies are choosing to keep renewable propane in separate onsite tanks.

The myriad benefits of renewable propane include the dramatic reduction of carbon intensity scores, which is especially important in states like California. New carbon intensity requirements via the California Air Resources Board are expected soon; as far as infrastructure goes, the transition should be seamless.

The Good in Both Old & New

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the potential demand for renewable propane in California alone could surpass 200 million gallons by 2030.

Remember that most, if not all, of that product, will be American-made. That’s crucial because fleets can use domestic fuel, not encumbered by the pricing uncertainty present with gasoline and diesel.

Truck fleet operators can rest assured that their current choices in emissions-reducing propane autogas vehicles will easily translate to even lower emissions with renewable propane.

With the various fuel and technology options available for work trucks, how do you make the right choice for your business? Propane autogas is one of those clean-operating, low-carbon fuels that you hear about in today’s fleets. Work Truck has you covered with everything you need to know about propane autogas

Stay up-to-date on everything alternative-fuel, propane autogas, and renewable by signing up for Work Truck's eNewsletter and following us on your favorite social media platform! 

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About the Author: Todd Mouw is president of Roush CleanTech, a provider of advanced clean vehicle technology. Mouw has served as president of the NTEA Green Truck Association. This article was authored and edited according to WT editorial standards and style. Opinions expressed may not reflect that of WT.

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