Repurposing methane produced from landfills for a more sustainable refuse market

Cummins Renewable Natural Gas

It’s no secret that trucking markets around the world are calling for cleaner fuel alternatives. In 2018, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the Clean Trucking Initiative to “ensure emissions reductions occur in the real world in all types of truck operation.”

With a specific reference to heavy-duty trucks and their impact on the environment, the refuse market has a unique opportunity to increase their use of renewable resources. How? By capturing and reusing landfill gases.

Landfills are an extreme threat to the ozone and are responsible for emitting raw methane gases. Raw methane gas is 40 times more potent than tail pipe exhaust and will remain trapped in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. But on the flip side, methane emissions from landfills also represent an undervalued opportunity to seize and repurpose a significant energy resource. 

Once methane is produced, it can go through three different levels of treatments in order to repurpose the gas in a productive manner. The primary and secondary treatments remove moisture and impurities, respectively. If these two steps are completed, the gas can be used to generate electricity in power generation plants. If the methane undergoes a third treatment to remove CO2, N2, O2, and VOCs (as needed), it can be reused for vehicle fuel as renewable natural gas (RNG). 

Renewable Natural Gas landfill process

This process creates the opportunity for a full life cycle of natural gas landfills. Waste companies, like Waste Management, are sending RNG-powered trucks to your neighborhood to collect waste and recycling. The material collected is then deposited into landfills and over time produces methane. That methane becomes a RNG through the cleansing process and then fuel to power the natural gas powered trucks that collect the waste. Cummins’ natural gas engine line already produces emissions 90% lower than EPA requirements; adding this fuel type further reduces Waste Management’s vehicles to net sub-zero emissions! 

On a larger scale, there are also opportunities for waste companies to funnel their RNG from landfills into the national natural gas pipeline network. The U.S. natural gas pipeline system totals over three million miles of pipeline across the country, providing natural gas to factories, hotels, city-owned facilities, convention sites, airports, commercial ship and motorized vehicle refueling sites, and finally into residential homes across the country. 

While both RNG and fossil natural gas share the same pipeline, the year-over-year expansion of injecting RNG into the pipeline will continue to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. To further encourage the growth and use of RNG in the United States, the EPA established the Renewable Identification Number program (or RIN). Fleets who contract the purchases and use RNG from authorized brokers receive full Greenhouse Gas reduction credits when pulling natural gas off the pipeline. 

It seems like a perfect solution. Is that because it is? Landfills, dairy farms, livestock farms and sewerage treatment plants all produce raw methane naturally. Capturing this abundant energy source and converting it to a very affordable energy source, then coupling it with Cummins’ renewable natural gas engine delivers net sub-zero emissions goods movement today. 

Next question, please. 

Learn more about Cummins natural gas solutions.  

Environmental Protection Agency: 

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

Cummins India successfully delivers 600th GTA855 natural gas engine for City Gas Distribution

Cummins India successfully delivers 600th GTA855 natural gas engine for City Gas Distribution

Cummins promise to customers world-wide is to deliver innovation and dependability to every application. Since 2008, Cummins Oil & Gas team has been fulfilling this promise for City Gas Distribution (CGD) in India. This milestone has been accomplished with the commissioning of the 600th GTA855 industrial natural gas engine for CGD.

GTA855 engine

In 2008, Cummins India entered the gas compression market when they first repowered an engine for Indraprastha Gas Ltd. Based on excellent product performance, Cummins India’s natural gas solutions have been supporting these applications ever since. By engaging with industry-leading original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in compressed natural gas (CNG) applications, Cummins has proven its ability to deliver maximum uptime and timely service support to maintain its status as a preferred manufacturer in the Indian oil and gas industry.

The CNG market demands continuous duty operation averaging 6,000 to 8,000 hours per year, also requiring an uptime rate of at least 98% and a strong call for optimized total cost of ownership. To ensure Cummins can deliver upon these expectations, Cummins India has cultivated valuable relationships with compressor OEMs and packagers in India. In addition to offering strong aftermarket support, Cummins India has trained OEMs and field service support personnel on natural gas engines to support customer needs in the market.
The demand for CNG engines to support gas compression applications in the market continues to grow. India’s 2030 government initiatives include expanding the natural gas network across the country by increasing its use to 15% of total energy consumption, up from the current rate of 8%. The oil & gas industry is prioritizing the need to modernize the transportation system away from high-pollution vehicles and towards emission friendly solutions. As a result, the need for innovative and dependable natural gas engine manufacturers will remain steady in future years. Cummins is here to accept and support that challenge to help power a more prosperous world. 

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SuperTruck II team reaches never achieved before 55% brake thermal efficiency

DOE Cummins SuperTruck II

The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) recently recognized the Cummins SuperTruck II team for pioneering research and development in heavy-duty diesel engine technology. This honor, which was presented to the team during the DoE’s Annual Merit Review Conference, celebrates their achievement of 55% brake thermal efficiency (BTE) from an engine equipped with waste heat recovery, an important metric in the SuperTruck II program. The conference was held on June 21.

"Getting to 55% BTE was about optimally moving the needle in many areas. The interactions among the engine subsystems complicated defining how to operate each of these subsystems to reach the optimum engine performance. Achieving the final objective occurred with careful hardware selection and a month of optimization of the engine and Waste Heat Recovery systems at the test cell," said Jon Dickson, Cummins Principal Investigator for the SuperTruck II initiative. "There were a lot of people at Cummins that came together to make this happen, who never gave up even when we were down to the wire, and I’m thrilled to accept this award in recognition of their perseverance."

Cummins has been part of the DoE’s SuperTruck initiative since it began in 2010 with the goal to improve heavy-duty truck freight efficiency. BTE quantifies the fraction of the fuel's chemical energy that is converted into useful work by the engine system, and acts as an important measurement of overall engine efficiency. As the SuperTruck II program progresses, the Cummins engine with 55% BTE will integrate into a Peterbilt truck to ultimately demonstrate improvement in freight efficiency.

"All of this invention did not happen solely during the SuperTruck II project—in fact, a lot of this work was set in motion with SuperTruck I," added Tim Shipp, Engine Performance Leader for the Cummins SuperTruck II team.

"The challenge of SuperTruck I allowed us those years to focus on improving efficiency, and Cummins hasn’t stopped pressing forward since then. Everything we have learned ties so closely together, and reaching 55% BTE is the culmination of all that focused activity."

More than 200 Cummins employees supported the core SuperTruck team of 25 innovators, who inched toward the 55% BTE goal with incremental changes and improvements until finally, on a cold evening in January, they reached their goal.

Mr. Shipp adds, "When it was game time during those last months, the pressure was on to find the technology to push us to the finish line. That is where the team’s persistence really came into play, but also the company’s commitment to innovation. Without a real desire to deliver on this experiment from the team and company leadership, we never would have gotten there." 

Cummins DOE SuperTruck I
Cummins and Peterbilt teamed together for SuperTruck I, pictured here, first demonstrating more than 50 percent BTE and analytically defining technologies needed to achieve 55 percent BTE. 

In his testimony to the United States Senate in March of this year, Cummins Vice Chairman Tony Satterthwaite confirmed the company’s commitment to developing the technologies of tomorrow, and the importance of industry and government partnerships such as SuperTruck. 

"The heavy-duty and non-road vehicle industry is undergoing significant change, and Cummins is leading the way by investing and innovating in a broad portfolio of power including advanced diesel, natural gas, hybridization, electrified power, fuel cell technology and alternative fuels –so our customers can have the right solution to get the job done," Satterthwaite said. "However, industry working alone will not get us where we need to be in a time frame that is feasible. Government supported innovation is needed to meet our global energy and environmental challenges." 

When the technologies developed under the SuperTruck I initiative hit the market, they are projected to save 7.9 million gallons of diesel fuel per day and reduce CO2 emissions by 33% from the 2009 baseline. SuperTruck II demonstrates a further 50% reduction in CO2 emissions, doubling efficiency. 

Daniel Mohr, System Integration Lead for the Cummins SuperTruck project, is excited to keep building on the team’s success. “We set out to meet aggressive engine-level targets, but we will not meet all our goals simply by increasing engine efficiency; we need to think about investigating the use of low carbon fuels-- hydrogen, natural gas, and alcohols. This is our next focus.”

Cummins’ quest for engine efficiency doesn’t end with 55% BTE.

"Greater engine efficiency is still feasible, and our work will continue toward that goal,” said Dickson. "While we are all thrilled to celebrate this SuperTruck II achievement, we will continue to push ourselves to meet the needs of our customers and our planet." 

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Catherine Morgenstern - Cummins Inc.

Catherine Morgenstern

Catherine Morgenstern is a Brand Journalist for Cummins, covering topics such as alternative propulsion, digitalization, manufacturing innovation, autonomy, sustainability, and workplace trends. She has more than 20 years of experience in corporate communications, holding leadership positions most recently within the Industrial Capital Goods sector.

Catherine began her career as a marketing writer for a biotechnology company, where she learned to take complicated and highly technical information and make it accessible to everyone. She believes the concept of “storytelling” is more than a trendy buzzword and loves to find ways for her readers to make personal connections to her subjects. Catherine has a passion for technology and innovation and how its intersection can make an impact in all our lives.

Catherine recently moved back to her hometown in the Hudson Valley, New York after a several decades in Los Angeles and Chicago. She is a graduate of UCLA and enjoys gardening and spending time with her husband and three children.

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