Monarch Beverage has made a long-term commitment toward compressed natural gas (CNG) and is building its own CNG fuel station with two islands.

Monarch Beverage has made a long-term commitment toward compressed natural gas (CNG) and is building its own CNG fuel station with two islands.

Fred Dufour, senior VP for Monarch Beverage, believes that in only a few years, the need for diesel will nearly be gone. “Every year, our fleet of trucks consumes nearly 1 million gallons of diesel; however, in 2015 we’ll be using less than 100,000 gallons. We’ll be doing our part in reducing our dependence on foreign oil while reducing greenhouse gases by 1,500 tons per year,” he said. 

Monarch Beverage is Indiana’s largest beer and wine distributor. The 650-person company delivers 15.5 million cases of beer and 1 million cases of wine each year.

Monarch Beverage’s decision to convert its fuel source to compressed natural gas (CNG) for 85 percent of its fleet is expected to save 60 percent, or $2-3 million, in overall fuel costs each year.

“Two years ago, we purchased two Kenworth T440s with the Cummins Westport ISL G engine, and a pre-production Kenworth T660 with the new 12.0L Cummins Westport ISX12 G engine,” Dufour said. “No grant money was used. We ran the trucks hard, on long-haul and regional routes, amassing more than 100,000 miles on each. Our fuel economy was 5.7 mpg (diesel gallon equivalent) compared to 6.2 mpg with our diesel fleet. Since the CNG cost was just 30 percent that of diesel, the money we saved on fuel was substantial. We figured the payback for the up-cost on CNG equipment to be just more than two years.”

With that data in hand, Dufour moved forward with additional Kenworth T440s fueled by CNG. He has been running 27 T440s since June 2012.

“Other than having spark ignition and spark plugs to deal with, and a different kind of engine oil, there really is no difference in maintenance practices,” he said. “Fuel tanks need to be monitored and maintained, but our technicians have been trained and certified for that duty.”

Dufour said some of the positive trade-offs include not having to worry about diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) and diesel particulate filters (DPF).

Monarch Beverage’s T660 CNG

When it comes to on-road performance, Dufour said he and his drivers have been very pleased. “The 325 hp, 8.9L ISL G engines handle our loads very well, which are under 65,000-lbs. GVW. Our drivers have been very excited about the Kenworth T440s. The new 400 hp, 12.0L ISX12 G en-gines for the new Kenworth T800s will power our over-the-road fleet where we load out at 79,000-lbs. GVW,” he said.

Monarch Beverage has made a long-term commitment toward CNG. It has placed additional orders for Kenworth T440s. By 2015, 90 of the company’s 105 trucks will be CNG-powered. To support the CNG transformation, the company built its own CNG fueling station with two islands in the Indianapolis area. The “fast-fill” station delivers more than 11 gallons a minute, as compared to 12- to 15-gallons per minute for diesel.

“There is some training involved since CNG is a different fuel, but we really have no concern,” Dufour noted. “With the price of fuel and the cost of our $2.3 million fuel station amortized over three years, our net cost per gallon is $1.50. After that period, we’re just paying for the cost of fuel.”

With diesel prices always in constant motion, the certainty of CNG prices allows Monarch Beverage to plan accordingly. “With CNG we can lock in for three years, which gives us great budget certainty,” he said.