LPG Spotlight: New Century FS

October 12, 2018 By    
New Century FS erected a vertical 1,000-gallon bulk tank connected to a dispenser. Photo courtesy of New Century FS

New Century FS erected a vertical 1,000-gallon bulk tank connected to a dispenser. Photo courtesy of New Century FS

When Keith McGowan – the former transportation director for the Vinton-Shellsburg Community School District in Vinton, Iowa – called New Century FS, an agricultural cooperative in central Iowa, and said the school district was adding propane-powered school buses to its fleet and needed a fuel supply, the retailer found a way to fill that need.

“[McGowan] called us up one day and told us, ‘Hey, I ordered a couple propane buses and we need to get a filling system figured out,’” says Jay Christie, energy development specialist for New Century FS. “So then we got into the autogas business because the school district we were working with wanted to get into it and we were more than happy to help.”

Today, New Century FS provides six of the eight school districts within the nine counties the co-op serves with 9 million annual gallons of propane autogas. Vinton-Shellsburg was the co-op’s first autogas client and, according to Christie, uses about 25,000 gallons of autogas a year.

Christie says the addition of propane-powered school buses at Vinton-Shellsburg School District was sparked by two concerns with diesel: Emissions and insufficient heat from the engine during winter months.

“While [Vinton-Shellsburg] didn’t have issues with vehicles starting, they did have issues with the engine warming up for the kids to stay warm,” Christie explains. “[Drivers] would come in early and probably take half an hour to get [the buses] warmed up. By the time they finished their route, the bus never warmed up. The guys that drove propane buses will tell you within about 10 minutes of running that engine, you are going to be turning that heater down in the bus, even on the coldest days.”

Christie admits he sees diesel-powered buses getting better fuel mileage, but the largest benefit for propane autogas is the savings on total cost of ownership. The other benefit Christie hears from propane autogas customers is the quieter sound of the engine.

“In my world, it is not about miles per gallon,” he says. “It’s about pennies per mile.”

Propane-powered school buses cost operators 15 cents per mile, which is a 10-cent savings compared to diesel, Christie explains.

The location of the bulk tank and dispenser was a unique challenge for New Century FS. The Vinton-Shellsburg School District had limited space, so the cooperative erected a vertical 1,000-gallon bulk tank connected to a dispenser. The complete refueling station only takes up an area of about 4 x 8 ft.

New Century FS purchases the bulk storage tanks for its autogas customers from its parent company, Growmark, and also handles the plumbing and piping from the tank to the dispenser. The cooperative does this installation with no cost to the school district as a way of giving back to the community.

“[The school districts] put the concrete and the wiring in and that is all they are responsible for,” Christie says. “We will put the rest in and we tell them to take the money it would cost otherwise and put it back into the school district. Whether you put that into buses or whatever, we’ll handle that expense.”

FOUNDED // 1927
HEADQUARTERS // Grinnell, Iowa
AREAS SERVICED // 9 counties in central Iowa
WEBSITE // newcenturyfs.com

This article is tagged with and posted in Current Issue, Featured
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About the Author:

Joe McCarthy was an associate editor at LP Gas Magazine.

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