Propane Autogas Presents Opportunities for School Challenges

As parents, students, educators, and school administrators ready for the first day of school, all are bracing for the challenges ahead. School transportation is no exception to those challenges, as many school districts will be seeking cost-effective solutions to achieve maximum comfort and safety for their riders, whenever the buses begin operation.

Many school systems in the Southeastern U.S. currently benefit from the financial, environmental, and operational benefits of using alternative fuel in their school bus fleets. As the upcoming school year brings difficult challenges both financially and operationally, autogas school buses can provide needed solutions for school districts.
Henry County Schools, near Atlanta, selected Blossman Gas to provide the fuel needed for their autogas bus fleet. Blossman Gas, along with partner Superior Energy Systems, provided the county with refueling infrastructure to ensure the school district had the capability of refueling on-site. “We are excited about the 33 propane buses now in the fleet, all of which have completed the annual inspection and are ready for the opportunity to transport our students to school when that time comes,” says Cliff Shearouse, executive director of transportation for Henry County Schools.

“The autogas buses have proven to have a lower cost of ownership as the maintenance and fuel costs are less to operate compared to our diesel buses. Our district will save approximately $60,000.00 this year by operating the 33 propane fueled buses rather than the equivalent diesel buses. These savings will help offset the costs associated with our required COVID-19 cleaning procedures as well as the budget reductions, which stem from the expected economic effects of the pandemic,” Shearouse added.

Autogas is less expensive than conventional gasoline and diesel, with an average savings between 30-50%, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The price volatility of gasoline and diesel can make it challenging to predict a budget cost for school administrators. With additional funds now needed in school districts for sanitization materials, providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to both students and school employees, and having to possibly increase both custodial employees and school nurses, cost-effective solutions such as autogas can be a ready solution for school systems.

Additionally, when compared to gasoline or diesel, autogas substantially reduces greenhouse gases (GHG) such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen oxide (NOx). This is substantial because NOx emissions are a known accelerator for issues like asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory problems students may be facing. According to EPA calculations, the 84,000 gallons of autogas used by Henry County Schools has displaced 2615 barrels of oil, and 2072 short tons of GHG emissions.

When looking at operational benefits, propane autogas has an edge over other alternative fueled vehicles, such as electric buses. Autogas buses don’t have the range restrictions of electricity, which could require buses to return to recharge in the middle of a route. This could be a key factor this upcoming school year, as routes may change from day to day depending on potential changes in students’ schedules.

While schools were out of session due to COVID-19, Phillips Energy, an Alliance AutoGas partner, worked to ensure that Phillips’ customer, Newport News Public Schools, was able to deliver meals to school-aged children who were not able to attend school as a result of the closure of schools due to the pandemic. The bus drivers and staff members were able to practice social distancing, while also providing a small degree of normalcy for students who experienced disruptions in their education.

As of last year, more than 1 million students across 48 states rode propane autogas buses to school. Providing financial, operational, and sustainable solutions across the board, autogas buses provide benefits for school districts that are readily available to be utilized.

SOURCE: The Weekly Propane Newsletter, August 20, 2020. Weekly Propane Newsletter subscribers receive all the latest posted and spot prices from major terminals and refineries around the U.S. delivered to inboxes every week. Receive a center spread of posted prices with hundreds of postings updated each week, along with market analysis, insightful commentary, and much more not found elsewhere.