Western Milling is planning to build a natural gas fueling station at the northeast corner of Betty Drive and Highway 99. Image via Google Earth
Written by David Castellon
If you have a farm or ranch, you probably know Western Milling as a local maker of animal feeds and plant foods.
But the Goshen-based business is about to enter a new venture — fueling station operator.
Western Milling plans to open a compressed natural gas station later this year to fuel trucks and cars operating with the clean-burning fuel. Among the vehicles that would be fueled there are 30 CNG-fueled trucks the company is buying for its Goshen plant, which is a short distance from where the new fueling station would be, on a five-acre parcel northeast of Highway 99 and Betty Drive.
While current plans are to have the new facility built and pumping fuel by some time in May, Western Milling also plans to build a truck repair shop certified to work on CNG trucks at the site. In fact, the company’s CEO, Kevin Kruse, said his business’ in-house truck repair division would relocate to the new site, repairing Western Milling’s trucks and other trucks.
“The near-zero emissions natural gas trucks will be fueled with renewable natural gas that can virtually eliminate smog-forming pollutants and reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change by as much as 80%,” states a press release put out by Southern California Gas, which has advised Western Milling on the new venture.
Western Milling’s investment in its new natural gas trucks is being supported by the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District’s Truck Replacement Program, an initiative to replace on-road diesel trucks with cleaner-fueled trucks to expand fleets with the cleanest technology available, particularly in low-income and disadvantaged communities experiencing greater air quality impacts, according to the release.
Kruse declined to disclose the cost of the CNG trucks, but added they cost 20-25 percent more than diesel trucks, but grants from the state agency are covering that difference.
“These new trucks are powered by a 12-liter Cummins Westport engine, the first engine of its kind to meet the California Air Resources Board optional low NOx [oxides of nitrogen] engine emission standard,” the release continues.
Kruse said in an interview that his company purchased a single CNG truck about five years ago, but the engine was weak and prone to mechanical problems, as well as being so heavy that the company was required to reduce its weight limits for loads. The new trucks — two of which have been delivered so far — have stronger engines, better reliability and are lighter to the point that they’re allowed to haul a couple more tons than the old CNG truck, which played a big part in the decision to buy the new vehicles, the CEO added.
SoCalGas opened its own CNG fueling station last month in Bakersfield, while Kruse said that locally, the nearest CNG stations are in Fresno and Tulare, the later of which his trucks are going to for refueling.
The natural gas used at the new Goshen fueling station will be renewable, as it will be produced from captured methane emissions at dairy farms, wastewater treatment plants, landfills and other waste streams.
Kruse said that most of it will come from South Valley dairies with bio digesters that capture the methane from cow manure, as Western Milling will get tax breaks buying the gas straight from local dairy operators.
As for the cost of the fuel, SoCalGas reports that CNG at its Bakersfield station is selling at $2.05 per gallon, while the average price of diesel fuel in California is $3.36 per gallon.