Republic Services Inc.  , the second-largest trash hauler and recycling company in the United States, will cut the ribbon Thursday on a new, compressed natural gas refueling facility in Commerce City.

It’s part of a $ 5 million investment in converting the company’s 140 Denver-area trucks from diesel to natural gas.

“This is a project going on across our company, starting in California,” said Joe Noorlag, Republic’s vice president of operations for the western region.

“We view diesel and the petroleum products it’s derived from as an imported product with high risk. Compressed natural gas is a domestic product.”

Republic (NYSE: RSG) is based in Phoenix. The company has about 15,000 trucks operating at 300 locations across the country, he said.

The company has 140 Denver-area routes, with 40,000 residential, and 10,000 commercial and industrial customers, Noorlag said.

The refueling facility will be a private one, available only to Republic trucks, he said.

Republic is switching to natural gas for several reasons.

In addition to a desire to use a domestically produced fuel, burning natural gas cuts emissions as much as 90 percent compared to burning diesel fuel. And the natural gas trucks are quieter that diesel ones, Noorlag said.

The company expects to recoup its investment, via lower fuel bills, in four or five years, he said.

“It gives us a nice return on investment,” he said. “Compressed natural gas is lower, pricewise, than diesel and we see the stability, long term, as being better. We don’t see prices shooting up as a result of things happening overseas.”

Republic spent about $ 3 million on the refueling station, plus on equipment in its maintenance shops and tapping into a natural gas pipeline. With that in place, the company will begin replacing its diesel trucks with natural gas-fueled trucks, he said.

Cathy Proctor covers energy, the environment, transportation and construction for the Denver Business Journal and writes for the “Earth & Energy” blog. Email: cproctor@bizjournals.com. Phone: 303-803-9233.

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