Thompson Sanitation Makes the Switch to Natural Gas

At first glance, Austin residents may not see much different about a Thompson Sanitation refuse truck picking up garbage in Austin.

However, when people look closely, they’ll see subtle differences: a large exhaust vent, large white compartment right behind the cab of the truck and a CNG sign on the side of the truck.

The vent is coming off a compressed natural gas engine and the white compartment is the CNG fuel tank.

Thompson Sanitation, based in Clarks Grove, is one of the first local businesses to make changes now that Austin’s newest Kwik Trip at 1509 10th Place NE opened Nov. 20 and started selling CNG fuel, making it the first gas station in Austin to do so.

“It’s a cleaner burning fuel,” route supervisor William Harmon said. “It’s produced here in the United States.”

Thompson Sanitation recently added the Autocar compressed natural gas-fueled garbage truck to its fleet, and that truck is serving Austin now that Kwik Trip opened and is selling CNG.

Harmon has heard of other local businesses mulling a conversion to CNG, and he said Thompson is mulling going that way in the future, as the business has even mulled adding its own CNG tanks at its Clarks Grove base.

“I know that we are already looking at purchasing a second CNG truck,” Harmon said.

The truck got on the road late last month and started picking up trash in Austin.

While there are few CNG automobiles on local roads, some see CNG as an alternative to diesel for semis, trucks and other more industrial vehicles.

CNG isn’t necessarily new to the area, as it’s been used by some businesses and organizations with private tanks, but Kwik Trip is the first gas station in town to sell it. It’s also being sold at stations in Owatonna, Rochester and the Twin Cities.

Kwik Trip officials have said the company is investing in CNG because it sees it as a fuel of the future.

While the CNG truck was more expensive, the fuel is affordable at around $1.99 for a per gallon equivalent.

“With the price of it as it is right now, it’s so much cheaper than even gas,” Harmon said.