Update: Waste Pro to invest $ 100 million in CNG
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By Jim Johnson | WRN senior reporter

Nov. 4 — Trash trucks aren´t known for their speedy starts, but Waste Pro USA Inc. is going from zero to 60 when it comes to natural gas-powered vehicles.

With just a pair of compressed natural gas powered vehicles in the company´s fleet, the Longwood, Fla.-based solid waste management company plans to invest $ 100 million in a widespread initiative to expand the alternative fuel use in a big, big way.

A trip earlier this year by CEO John J. Jennings to billionaire and natural gas promoter T. Boone Pickens´ ranch in Texas helped convince Waste Pro that now is the time to delve deeply into CNG, according to company spokesman Ron Pecora.

Waste Pro, with a fleet of about 1,400 heavy-duty trucks, won´t convert its entire fleet to CNG, but the company will work to have the bulk of the fleet running on the alternative fuel, he said.

Waste Pro´s push comes through an initial order of 150 waste collection and recycling trucks and the construction of what the company is calling a “multimillion dollar” fueling complex in Fort Pierce, Fla.

Pickens´ Clean Energy Fuels Corp., a major player in brining natural gas to the waste and recycling industry, is designing and constructing the Fort Pierce facility.

Waste Pro studied the implementation of CNG for a year before deciding to jump in with both feet.

“That´s kind of typical for John Jennings,” Pecora said of Jennings´ decisive action. “We´re able to do this, in part, because we´re privately held and in part because we have the money. And it´s a good thing to do for environmental reasons and it´s a good thing to do for business reasons.”

Pecora said the purchase of CNG-powered trash and recycling trucks and the construction of fueling stations to support those vehicles will take some time, but not too long.

“It could be as fast as three years or it could be five years. It just really depends upon how fast we can look at the facilities and build the facilities. It could very well be within three years,” he said. The Fort Pierce site should be up and running next year.

Exactly how many CNG trucks eventually will be driving around with Waste Pro´s logo has yet to be determined, as Pecora said the company will buy as many as it can with the money being set aside. A typical CNG truck costs between $ 275,000 and $ 300,000 and the company expects to spend about $ 1.5 million to $ 2 million on each fueling station, he said.

Waste Pro is using money from the company´s line of credit as well as free cash flow from operations to pay for the CNG conversion.

“Many of our 115 exclusive municipal customers are excited about this opportunity to play a part in the use of domestic CNG fuel and want to participate with us,” Jennings said in a statement.

Pecora likened the push into CNG to the enthusiasm toward recycling years ago.

“It´s not unlike the recycling phenomena, which is not a phenomena anymore, it´s here to stay,” he said. “I think alternative energy is probably here to stay, too, and this form seems to be something that everybody is moving toward, at least in our industry.

“It´s not like Waste Pro is the only one doing it. It is definitely an industry trend and that´s a good thing. It´s a very good thing for everybody. And hopefully it will make everybody more competitive, too,” Pecora said.

Waste Pro has 75 operating locations in seven southeastern states, but Pecora said diesel-powered vehicles will remain at some sites.

“I don´t think it would be possible with the way we are growing and the areas where we´re growing, too – our footprint – to have 100% CNG trucks. We would like to have the bulk of them CNG,” he said.

In the statement, Jennings said the company is committed to solar-powered facilities, residential and commercial recycling, landfill diversion, and clean air.

“This move will dramatically reduce emissions in our operating footprint and potentially provide fueling stations for the cities and counties we serve,” Jennings said in the statement.

Contact Waste & Recycling News senior reporter Jim Johnson at [email protected] or 937-964-1289.

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