Chevron, Cummins team on RNG engine demonstration with Walmart

June 12, 2022 |

 

Big names with big news today – Chevron U.S.A., a subsidiary of Chevron Corporation, announced definitive agreements to supply fuel linked to renewable natural gas for a Walmart demonstration of Cummins’ new 15-liter natural gas engine for heavy-duty trucks.

In today’s Digest, what the agreements entail, how Walmart’s heavy-duty trucks will be using RNG, how Brightmark and California Bioenergy are involved and producing the dairy-farm waste based RNG, Walmart’s plans for hydrogen fleets too, and more.

Walmart’s goals

Pretty much everyone knows who Walmart is considering it’s the world’s largest retailer, but some may not realize that it also has one of the largest transportation networks. That means lots of greenhouse gas emissions.

After all, Walmart operates one of the largest and safest fleets in the U.S., with 12,000 drivers, 10,000 tractors and 80,000 trailers driving 1.1 billion miles every year. With a fleet of this scale, it made up approximately 24% of the company’s Scope 1 emissions in 2020.

But a few years ago, in 2020, Walmart set a goal to achieve zero emissions across Walmart’s global operations by 2040.

How the heck will they do that?

3 ways – They are evaluating various attributes of three different fuel types – renewable natural gas, hydrogen and electric. Walmart is piloting solutions not only for over-the-road (OTR) trucks but for refrigerated trailers (also known as reefers) and yard trucks (which move trailers around in the lots), too.

We’ll skip their electric fleet piloting and focus on the hydrogen and RNG here.

Hydrogen fleets

Let’s start with hydrogen since they are already transporting liquid hydrogen to fuel many of their forklifts across their grocery distribution centers.

The advantage of hydrogen is that, compared to battery-electric, it has a higher range of around 400 miles, takes significantly less time to refuel and weighs less, allowing them to haul more freight. The downside? Right now, it’s expensive.

Yard Trucks: In just a few months, Walmart will be the first company in the U.S. to test the capabilities and performance of Capacity’s very first second-generation hydrogen fuel cell yard truck. The truck is manufactured by Capacity in Longview, Texas, and has a range of expected benefits including an operating time of up to 10 hours on a single refuel, faster refuel time and less dependence on the electric charging grid. Plus, they can utilize the same infrastructure as their hydrogen forklifts while producing little to no emissions.

In fact, it’s because of these benefits that they see hydrogen as an option for our long-haul over the road tractors – they will have more to share on that soon.

Renewable Natural Gas

Ok, now let’s look at Walmart’s RNG plans. As they transition away from diesel and move towards a lower emissions fleet, they plan to deploy and evaluate vehicles powered by compressed natural gas (CNG). Natural gas engines have a comparable range to diesel engines of around 700 miles – which makes them a great potential fit for their sleeper cabs – and can produce tangible emissions benefits that compound whenever powered by RNG or RNG-linked fuel.

Over-the-Road: Starting early next year Walmart will be the first transportation company to receive Cummins’ new 15-liter Natural Gas Engine and will be adding them to a few of their trucks to pilot. This brand-new engine is expected to deliver the same power and torque of a 15-liter diesel engine but with significantly lower emissions, lighter-weight and overall lower cost per mile than its diesel counterpart. And to maximize the potential emissions benefits of utilizing this technology, they secured agreements with Chevron to supply Walmart trucks with CNG linked to renewable natural gas.

As part of the agreements, Walmart will provide heavy-duty trucks for Cummins to integrate with the new 15-liter natural gas engine, the X15N, which runs on CNG. After taking delivery, Walmart will field-test the finished trucks at its distribution center in Fontana, California, with Chevron supplying the trucks with CNG linked to renewable natural gas.

Who’s making the RNG?

Chevron has partnerships with Brightmark LLC and California Bioenergy LLC to produce renewable natural gas from dairy farms, which under California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard can qualify as carbon negative on a lifecycle basis. Chevron will be responsible for linking the renewable natural gas to the CNG dispensed by Walmart into its natural gas trucks.

Reactions from the stakeholders

“Chevron has positioned itself to help major fleet operators like Walmart in their efforts to decarbonize their transportation operations through the use of CNG linked to renewable natural gas,” said Andy Walz, president of Americas Fuels & Lubricants for Chevron. “As we continue to rapidly grow our renewable natural gas business, we aim to leverage the power of our partnerships to the benefit of new and existing customers who seek lower carbon transportation solutions.”

“Walmart’s collaboration with Chevron and Cummins on the new Cummins 15-liter natural gas engine is one of many technologies we are testing to reach zero emissions in our fleet, part of our broader goal to achieve zero emissions in our operations by 2040,” said Luke McCollum, vice president of Supply Chain Sustainability at Walmart. “Testing CNG linked to renewable natural gas marks a significant stepping stone for Walmart’s path to zero emissions transportation.”

In September 2021, Chevron and Cummins expanded their memorandum of understanding to include new strategic priorities relating to renewable natural gas, with an initial focus on making the transition to natural gas engines easier for fleets by improving fuel availability while allowing them to lower the lifecycle carbon intensity of their operations.

“Cummins is excited to work with Walmart and Chevron on heavy-duty natural gas trucks and fuel availability,” said Puneet Jhawar, general manager, Natural Gas at Cummins. “The Cummins X15N natural gas powertrain allows for fleets to significantly reduce their emissions footprint starting almost immediately on a large scale with competitive equipment costs, while providing the power, range, and performance characteristics customers expect from Cummins.”

Bottom Line

Walmart is trying to do the right thing and figure out what will work best with the variety of vehicles in their fleets. They note “Our hope is that by testing and learning, we can find the right recipe to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create a less impactful transportation fleet…” so it may end up looking like a combination of hydrogen, RNG and electric to make it happen and reach their goal of zero emissions by 2040.

In the meantime, it’s good news for Brightmark and California Bioenergy to have such support from Chevron and a big transportation user like Walmart.

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