Propane with a Purpose: Fueling Education Across the Country

Jan 11, 2016

According to School Bus Fleet magazine, Student Transportation of America (STA) was recently awarded a $3.7 million, seven-year school transportation contract with Pine-Richland:

The public-private partnership will provide 77 school vehicles beginning in the 2015-16 school year. The new fleet will run on propane autogas.

"We are very pleased to have been awarded the contract for school transportation with Pine-Richland School District," said Patrick Vaughan, chief operating officer of STA. "Our company's culture and new fleet of clean-burning propane vehicles have proven themselves in nearby Gateway School District and will be a welcomed addition to the students and residents of this community."

PropaneTribThat contract is welcome news for fuel and supply dealers. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

There is a growing interest in propane as an alternative transportation fuel because of its abundant domestic supplies, clean-burning qualities and relatively low cost. Propane accounts for only about 2 percent of energy used in the United States, according to the Department of Energy. Of that, less than 2 percent is used for transportation, which [is said to be] one of the fastest-growing areas for suppliers as they look to diversify their markets.

Ferrell Gas has five Pittsburgh-area locations, and has amped up its marketing of propane to school bus companies, school districts, lawn mower manufacturers and landscape companies…

"It's an absolute no-brainer for school buses to incorporate propane into their fleet," said Scott Brockelmeyer, spokesman for the Overland Park, Kan.-based company, which is trying to encourage bus companies and customers in other emerging markets to use propane by educating them about incentives offered by government agencies and other groups.

A propane-fueled school bus costs about $10,000 more than a diesel one, but school districts can save nearly 50 percent per mile on fuel and maintenance costs compared to diesel, according to a 2014 Department of Energy case study.

One of the local school districts that Ferrell began providing propane for recently is Pine-Richland. School districts tend to lock in their fuel prices through contracts, so Pine-Richland, which switched from diesel to propane buses last summer, is paying $1.03 a gallon in a 2-year contract with Ferrell, said Paul Fichner, vice president of operations for Student Transportation of America, which is contracted to provide student transportation for the district.

A group contract through the Allegheny Intermediate Unit would have cost $1.90 for gasoline and $2.20 for diesel, Pine-Richland officials said.

New Jersey-based Student Transportation of America provides school bus service for districts in 22 states, including 30 in Pennsylvania. Most of the company's newer contracts are for propane buses, and it has been replacing diesel buses with propane ones for some existing customers, Fichner said.

It's a trend that School Bus Fleet magazine continues to follow across the country.

Allied Specialty Vehicles (ASV) will expand its line of alternative-fuel vehicles under a new partnership with propane autogas technology supplier CleanFUEL USA.

ASV manufactures a variety of vehicles for the commercial, fire and emergency, and recreation markets. Among its brands is Collins Bus, which has already been offering propane Type A school buses with CleanFUEL.

"ASV has a long relationship working with CleanFUEL USA on propane autogas fleet installations for Type A school buses at Collins Bus," ASV President and CEO Tim Sullivan said. "Expanding this relationship across all ASV vehicle brands will increase the breadth of propane autogas systems we can offer to our customers."

The partnership agreement calls for CleanFUEL's propane autogas systems currently installed by third-party upfitters to be transitioned to ASV factory-certified installations. Sullivan said that this change will offer customers a full OEM warranty and will increase installation efficiency and improve overall quality control.

Also, the two companies will work together to develop customer service centers that will offer spare parts and maintenance services for a full suite of CleanFUEL propane autogas systems for multiple ASV product lines and their customers.

"We consistently hear requests from ASV fleet customers — those who run shuttle and transit buses, terminal trucks and emergency vehicles, for instance — looking for propane autogas options," said Curtis Donaldson, founder and managing partner of CleanFUEL USA. "We are thrilled to partner with ASV to meet the needs of customers throughout the U.S. and abroad seeking the benefits of propane autogas."

Since discovering the Marcellus, Range has become one of the largest producers of natural gas liquids, including propane, in Appalachia. 

With the Mariner East project, Range will ship 20,000 barrels of propane to Marcus Hook, where it can be sold in either the international market, or the local market, depending on which option yields the best price. Range also has access to 800,000 barrels of propane storage (80% of the total capacity) at Marcus Hook, which is especially valuable as it allows faster loading of ocean-going vessels and potential seasonal price opportunities. Having access to the harbor facilities at Marcus Hook is an important advantage for Range, as it could permit future export of other natural gas liquid products and growing volumes of ethane and propane. 

To learn more about the Mariner East project, please read: Range, Dragons & Mariner East: Exporting Gas Across the Globe.