CNG makes sense for Smith Dairy

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WOOSTER, Ohio — Smith Dairy is committed to sustainability for their company as well as their customers, said Chuck Diehl, fleet manager for Smith Dairy in Orrville, Ohio. Established in 1909, Smith Dairy has plants in Richmond, Ind. and Pacific, Mo. in addition to their main plant in Orrville.

Diehl was the featured presenter at a recent meeting sponsored by the Green Team at Trinity United Church of Christ in Wooster.

Diehl said Smith Dairy has a fleet of about 400 trucks that they are in the process of converting to Compressed Natural Gas.

“The Schmid family is very concerned about the environment,” he said.

He said the company uses about one million gallons of diesel fuel per year.

“We are not out to reduce our dependence on foreign fuel, we simply want to reduce our dependence on a volatile fuel market,” he said. “The oil market volatility is a challenge because prices never retract to where they started and consumers never know why the fuel prices go up.”

Improving mileage

He said the decision to convert the fleet came about after the company’s Green Team looked at numerous ways to improve fuel mileage on the trucks, reduce tail pipe emissions and make them more efficient.

After looking at everything from tires to trailers, to tractors, the team came back and asked what about the fuel. The result was the first privately funded public fuel station in the state.

“The fuel site was operational within three months of breaking ground and trucks were on the road within 30 days of delivery,” Diehl said. “We purchase the gas from Dominion and filter it to take out the water. We hope to get to the point that we can install a storage tank. We want to make diesel fuel a thing of the past. Our goal is to be diesel independent by 2030.”

Cost of conversion

Diehl said the fleet is being set up to handle both diesel and compressed natural gas. It costs between $30,000 and $ 35,000 to convert a vehicle, but the payback period is about 18-20 months. He added that maintenance costs will not go down on vehicles using compressed natural gas, but they will be competitive with other types of fuels.

For Pride of the Hills Manufacturing, the growing interest in compressed natural gas is a natural progression, according to Matt Smith. The company already manufactures equipment for the oil and gas industry.

Smith added that of the company’s fleet of 25 light and medium duty service and sales trucks, three are bi-fuel. The trucks travel somewhere between 20,000 and 60,000 miles per year, and average 15 miles per gallon of fuel. He estimates that the pay-back time on the conversion of the trucks to bi-fuel will be five years.

“We want to support the industry we are in,” he said. “We look at this as a way to promote more than just fuel production in the state.”

Wayne County ranks fourth and fifth respectively for the number of roads and bridges in the state, according to Roger Terrill, Wayne County engineer.

Terrill said funding for his office comes from license fees and fuel tax receipts, which have declined over the past few years. He said that people are doing less driving due to fuel prices and more efficient fuels mean better mileage and less fuel is sold.

More costly

At the same time, expenses for his office have increased by two-thirds, while income has declined.

“We were looking at different fuels,” he said. “We looked at propane, but when Smith Dairy installed their station, we gave compressed natural gas a second look.”

He said they converted an F-450 to CNG. This truck is used as a sign truck, and because it is all over the county during the week, it is easy for the drivers to stop at Orrville and fill the tank.

Diehl said the options for using compressed natural gas can be applied at the farm level as well, whether it involves using an anaerobic digester to manage livestock waste or converting tractors to use compressed natural gas.

“So many things center around agriculture,” he said. “It all starts at the farm.”

See also: Biofuel vehicles added to OARDC fleet.

About the Author

Freelance writer Susan Mykrantz has been writing for Farm and Dairy since 1989. She is a graduate of the ag college at Ohio State University and also serves as editor of the "Ohio Jersey News." She lives in Wayne County. More Stories by Susan Mykrantz

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