ConocoPhillips to convert trucks to propane

James Fenton

The company will convert 30 of its trucks to the propane-based fuel, called propane autogas, this year and will replace more than 300 of its trucks with vehicles that run on propane in the next five years, according to Jim Lowry, a ConocoPhillips spokesman.

Propane is a by-product of domestic oil refining and natural gas processing.

The move to switch to the low-carbon-emission fuel came after a successful pilot testing program begun in 2011. Some of ConocoPhillips' trucks were switched to propane and logged thousands of miles on oilfield roads in the state and southwest Colorado.

Lowry said the switch is part of the company's commitment to the environment.

“In line with our commitment to environmental responsibility, ConocoPhillips investigated the options of using cleaner burning fuel that would reduce our overall environmental impact to power our fleet of trucks in the San Juan basin,” Lowry said in an email. “After testing compressed natural gas and propane, we determined that propane better met the performance requirements for field vehicles.”

All of the trucks to be switched or replaced are driven by employees at the company's Farmington offices when they travel to ConocoPhillips' well sites in the San Juan Basin for maintenance and operations, Lowry said.

A Ford-certified alternative fuel vehicle manufacturer based in Livonia, Mich., ROUSH CleanTech, will sell ConocoPhillips the modified vehicles.

Each propane autogas-fueled truck emits about 67,000 fewer pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over its lifetime than a gasoline powered vehicle, according to the release. Propane autogas is 270 times more compact as a liquid than as a gas, making it highly economical to store and transport. It also reduces greenhouse gases by up to 25 percent, carbon monoxide by up to 60 percent and nitrogen oxide by 20 percent compared to gasoline.

“The addition of propane autogas trucks will greatly reduce ConocoPhillips' carbon footprint while using a fuel they produce here in the U.S.,” said Todd Mouw, vice president of sales and marketing for ROUSH CleanTech. “And with autogas' low-priced fuel and infrastructure costs, this investment will pay off for their bottom line.”

The average cost of propane autogas is 30 percent less per gallon than gasoline.

Jason Sandel, executive vice president at Aztec Well Servicing, said he saw the logic behind switching a portion of his company's vehicles from diesel to propane.

Last year, he began converting Aztec Well Service's fleet of about 200 hauling trucks, drilling rigs, crew cabs and pickups from diesel to propane. He said he hopes to have the entire fleet converted by 2018. He began the process by starting with the heaviest vehicles — including water haulers and heavy-load trucks — to realize the biggest impact right away. Aztec Well Service has Dodge vehicles in its fleet and Roush only works with Ford models, so Sandel opted for the next best thing — bi-fuel.

Bi-fuel vehicles have engines that run on liquid propane and diesel gas, which Sandel said results in cleaner emissions and improved gas mileage.

Sandel also is selling autofuel to Conoco. RoadRunner Fuels in Aztec, sells the fuel for $2.15 a gallon to six ConocoPhillips trucks each day, Sandel said. Double M Sales and Filter Service in Farmington sells the bi-fuel converter kits. Sandel owns both companies as part of his Aztec Well umbrella.

“We're the only autogas and bi-fuel pump distribution system in New Mexico,” Sandel said.

“It's an exciting time, considering Conoco is making this commitment to alternative fuel options.

As an autogas provider inside the community, we're very grateful for any and all business they bring our way. Making that sort of a choice definitely shows a commitment to the energy we are delivering from the San Juan Basin. That's Conoco putting their money where their mouth is.”

Lowry said he did not have information on the cost of each truck's conversion or the expected savings.

The company, he added, currently has no plans to convert any more of its vehicles.

“Right now our focus is on completing the five-year conversion project,” Lowry said.

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 and Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.