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Alabama Department of Corrections launches pilot project using propane autogas for work-release vans

For the Alabama Department of Corrections, ferrying inmates to and from work-release jobs had become increasingly costly in recent years. Their 15-passenger vans average almost 5,000 miles of travel a month, and gasoline for the fleet of 77 vans totaled about $1.3 million a year.

In 2011, Andy Farquhar, Director of the Department’s Industries Division and Departmental Energy Officer, began researching options. He attended a number of alternative-fuel workshops, including two Propane Road Shows organized by the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition. “After running the numbers, it appeared that autogas was an excellent fit for our high-mileage vans,” Farquhar said.

In 2012, ADOC received approval to buy ten E350 Ford 15-passenger vans and a refueling station for use at the Loxley Work Release Center. Vendors for the pilot project were selected through a bid process. Stivers Ford got the bid for the vans, Precision Sales & Service installed the propane conversion kits, and Estes Equipment installed the dispensing station at Loxley. Alliance Autogas will provide propane under the state’s alternative fuel contract.

The department expects to begin using the vans in January 2014 and anticipates significant fuel savings.
Purchase cost for the 10 vans (including conversion) was $355,000, and the dispensing stati cost roughly $51,000. But with the low cost of propane ($1.63 per gallon in mid- December), the department stands to recoup the conversion and infrastructure costs in less than one year. Fuel savings just for 2014 are estimated at $142,000. Farquhar said if expectations are met, propane could be adopted throughout the work release program.

“We’re happy to be exploring alternative fuels and looking for ways to save taxpayer money,” ADOC Commissioner Kim Thomas said. “Considering the distance traveled by our vehicles, this is a huge opportunity.”

Mark Bentley, executive director of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition, said the advantages go beyond cost. By using propane autogas in 10 vehicles, ADOC will also considerably reduce greenhouse gas emissions each year, Bentley said. And since propane is primarily produced in the United States, its increasing popularity in transportation supports economic development at home.

“These benefits explain why more businesses, municipalities, colleges, and schools are turning to propane,” Bentley said. “We’re so pleased to see the Alabama Department of Corrections add its name to the list.”

Mark Bentley
Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition
mark@alabamacleanfuels.org
205-402-2755
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