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(Beloit, WI) Hillary Gavan hgavan@beloitdailynews.com

Beloit’s Frito-Lay became the first of the company’s plants to have a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling station on site, making it an industry leader in its commitment to alternative fuel.

At the Wednesday press conference, Frito-Lay officials also announced their plans to build seven more public CNG fueling sites around the country.

Senior leadership from PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay North America division were joined by representatives from the Department of Energy and the State of Wisconsin, Beloit City Manager Larry Arft and other local officials at the press conference to unveil the new investment. The CNG station at the Beloit facility was made possible by a $3.2 million grant. The grant funds were approved by the U.S. Department of Energy and distributed by the Wisconsin Department of Energy.

“The State’s role is to help ensure the needed infrastructure is built to expand CNG across Wisconsin, and to bring together the stakeholders interested in investing in CNG and building the demand for this clean fuel,” said Wisconsin Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch. “As companies invest in CNG fleets, there needs to be fueling stations along the route they travel. We are building a crucial energy infrastructure, not only for Wisconsin, but helping to build energy independence for our nation by using fuel sources found right here in America.”

In an interview before the event, Senior Director of Fleet for Frito-Lay North America Mike O’Connell explained how CNG is one of the up-and-coming fuel sources. Although most of Frito Lay’s fleet runs on diesel, the company wanted a more environmentally friendly solution to fuel for its fleet. And CNG is a domestically sourced fuel that is cheaper and more readily available than diesel and emits less greenhouse gases than diesel fuel.

At the press conference it was announced Frito-Lay will break ground on seven additional CNG stations in 2013 at sites around the country. Although Beloit’s site is private, the seven new sites will be public stations providing fuel for the Frito-Lay fleet as well as other companies using alternative fuel vehicles. Questar Corporation and Trillium CNG have been selected as the two vendors to build the CNG sites across the nation.

“We believe it’s critical to have a national infrastructure for CNG,” said Senior Vice President of Operations of Production and Sustainability for Frito Lay Gregg Roden.

Roden said it was fitting Beloit would get the private fueling station on site as the plant just celebrated its 40th anniversary and has more than 650 employees.

“Its received a number of state and national accolades,” Roden said.

Frito-Lay, the seventh largest private delivery fleet in the United States, plans to expand its fleet of CNG tractors, and will have a total of 208 tractors by the end of 2013. Once deployed, the CNG tractors will make up 20 percent of Frito-Lay’s fleet and will be located at 50 percent of production locations.

Building the new stations will enhance the current CNG infrastructure and help pave the way for more CNG vehicles to be introduced into the Frito-Lay fleet, as well as other companies currently using or thinking about using the alternative fuel vehicles in the future.

When all 208 CNG tractors are in service, Frito-Lay will eliminate 7,863 metric tons of carbon emissions, the equivalent of more than 1,125 cars annually, O’Connell said.

O’Connell noted that CNG may be the fuel source of the near future. There is a Honda civic that runs on it on the market as well as a variety of pick-up trucks. With oil companies also looking at natural gas, O’Connell said one day it could be another fuel at the local gas station. In the future O’Connell said buyers of vehicles will likely be able to select from a variety of engines which can run on a several different fuel sources giving consumers more options.

In the U.S. Frito-Lay hopes to reduce its total fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2020 The effort supports PepesiCo’s commitments to environmental sustainability, particularly in fuel and greenhouse gas reduction. In addition to its CNG vehicles, Frito-Lay has introduced all-electric trucks to its delivery fleet. In 2012 the company announced it would purchase 100 all-electric commercial vehicles from Smith Electric Vehicles, bringing the total number of its electric fleet to more than 280. The electric trucks eliminate the need for 500,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year.

Frito-Lay North American is the $13 billion convenient foods business unit of PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP) which is headquartered in Purchase, N.Y.

Beloit Frito-Lay makes Fritos, Lay’s, Doritos, Cheetos, Tostitos and Santitas.

In 2010 the Beloit facility became the state’s first food manufacturing site to e awarded LEED for Existing buildings Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

In 2010 the Beloit facility was honored with the Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year Grand Award and was named as the Environmental Protection Agency Waste Wise Partner of the Year in the midsize plant category.

In 2012, the Beloit plan received the U.S. EPA Clean Air Excellence Award and the “Green Master” award from the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council. In 20212, it also received the Business Friend of the Environment Award from the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

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