Elgin's garbage trucks soon all will be running on natural gas
Half of Elgin's residential garbage truck fleet is running on compressed natural gas after new equipment was introduced in late 2018, and the rest will follow suit by the end of the year, Waste Management representatives said.
Compressed natural gas trucks are less noisy, save money -- the fuel is cheaper and the trucks require fewer oil changes -- and are more friendly to the environment, with fewer carbon and greenhouse gas emissions compared to diesel engines, Waste Management's Mike Ehrenhaft said Tuesday. Ehrenhaft gave a training session about compressed natural gas technology to city staff members and members of the Elgin Fire Department.
Compressed natural gas is the same gas used to heat homes, but in compressed form. It has an ignition temperature of 1,000 degrees, which is higher than gasoline, diesel and propane, Ehrenhaft said. It is typically odorless, but an odorant is added so leaks can be detected, he said.
"It is most often safer than gasoline," he said.
Compressed natural gas trucks don't explode when they are on fire, he said. The trucks are equipped with vent tubes that funnel the compressed natural gas upward, so a ball of fire ignites on top of the truck, he said. "We recommend you stand and watch rather than pursue," he told emergency workers.
The training also focused on safety issues such as the location of the manual shut-off valve and admonishments to never tighten a leaking gas fixture under pressure and never inhale gas in an enclosed environment.
Assistant Fire Chief Robb Cagann and two fire department trainers attended the session. The plan is to train all firefighters by the first half of the year, Cagann said. Firefighters are trained to deal with natural gas situations but it's helpful to learn about the specific features of the Waste Management trucks, such as the location of their gas tanks, he said.
Waste Management is using compressed natural gas trucks at 130 fleet sites throughout the country, including in Batavia, which got nine compressed natural gas residential trucks late last year, Ferruzza said. Eight are being used in Elgin, and a ninth in communities including North Aurora, Winfield and Warrenville, he said.
The plan is to add seven more residential garbage trucks in Elgin by the end of the year, company officials said.
Some environmental activists warn that while natural gas is "cleaner" than gasoline and diesel, the process of drilling it and extracting it results in the leakage of methane, which in turn worsens global warming.