Grand Rapids to buy CNG for fleet vehicles

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Courtesy The Rapid

Grand Rapids entered a partnership with The Rapid and DTE Energy to purchase compressed natural gas (CNG) for city vehicles.

The agreement allows the city to fill its CNG fleet of vehicles at The Rapid’s recently completed CNG bus fueling facility, at 1020 Market Ave. SW in Grand Rapids.

The city will pump pipeline-grade renewable natural gas (RNG), in the form of CNG, from the environmental services department’s biodigester into DTE Energy’s pipeline, which will transport RNG to The Rapid’s fueling facility.

The city predicted it will save money and achieve operational benefits by purchasing RNG from The Rapid fueling station. The agreement will set fuel costs at $1.74 per diesel gallon equivalent, and the total will not exceed $150,000.

The partnership between the city, DTE and The Rapid is possible because of the recent construction of the city’s biodigester at its water resource recovery facility (WRRF) to accommodate the increase in public waste being generated and sent to the WRRF for processing. The biodigester will allow the city to produce RNG, and when it is fueled into buses, it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This project is an excellent example of the innovative ways local governments can work with regional and commercial partners to benefit our communities,” said City Manager Mark Washington. “We’re able to reduce the amount of waste we’re sending to disposal sites, fuel our fleet — as well as other fleets — with low-carbon and healthier RNG, and the city is saving money on the purchase of CNG. This also will support the city’s goal to reduce our carbon emissions footprint by 85% by 2030, which is a best-in-class goal and includes our fleet.”

Washington said the city will offset some of the biodigester cost by selling RNG under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard Program and earning renewable identification numbers, which are credits used for compliance, similar to renewable energy credits for solar and wind. DTE will receive a small portion of the revenue for the marketing of RNG, and The Rapid will receive a small portion for acting as the RNG pathway.

“We are proud to be working on this transformative project contributing to the waste and emission reduction goals of DTE, the city and The Rapid,” said Joi Harris, president of DTE Gas. “DTE is committed to a clean Michigan future, and projects such as these play an important role in our journey toward that aspiration. This RNG will supply DTE’s natural gas fueling stations as well as power The Rapid’s buses and the city’s fleet vehicles. The biodigester will also contribute RNG to our voluntary customer program, Natural Gas Balance, (which) allows customers to offset their homes’ greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Rapid has a fleet of 161 buses, 98 of which will run on RNG. Diesel buses gradually will be retired and replaced by RNG vehicles.

“This partnership is a win-win-win for The Rapid, the city of Grand Rapids and the region,” said Deb Prato, CEO of The Rapid. “We’re fueling a cleaner fleet and keeping more waste out of landfills. This innovative partnership represents the creativity and collaboration that is necessary to develop strategies across multiple sectors to create better outcomes for the climate and the community.”

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