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May 6, 2013 08:18 PM
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Fair Oaks milk trucks no longer use diesel

The 60 tanker loads of milk that leave Fair Oaks Farms daily in northwest Indiana no longer stop at filling stations to fuel up on $4 diesel.

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Instead, these specially-fitted tractor semis head to dairy manufacturing plants in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee powered by natural gas produced through special processing in the heart of the cluster of dairies that milk 30,000 cows.

Fair Oaks Farms has been producing methane and powering gensets to produce electricity for about a decade. But about 40% of the gas was burned off because it was laden with carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. Now, through simple (but expensive) scrubbing technology, natural gas is being produced.

It’s pure enough to power engines to deliver the milk that leave the dairies each day and save 12 million diesel-fueled road miles each year. The semis are currently run by 9-liter engines, which limits the topography they can climb. New, 12-liter engines coming in August will allow the trucks to climb mountains and deliver milk anywhere in the country, says Mike McClosey, co-owner of Fair Oaks.

The dream
is to eventually have natural gas fueling stations that will allow the trucks to run to the southeastern U.S. And in a partnership with Dairy Farmers of America, plans are in place to build a similar network in the Southwest.

Initially, the fueling stations will tap into conventional natural gas pipelines. Eventually, large dairies in these areas might produce their own on-site natural gas to contribute to the fuel supply.

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