FAA awards $10 million in VALE grants to six US airports to help reduce emissions and improve air quality
Wed 29 Oct 2014 – The FAA has awarded grants totalling $10.2 million to six airports across the United States to enable reductions in emissions and air quality improvements. The grants are made under the FAA’s Voluntary Airport Low Emission (VALE) programme that aims to reduce all sources of airport ground emissions in areas of marginal air quality. Since 2005, the FAA has funded 69 VALE projects at 38 airports, representing a total investment of $184 million that includes $38 million in local airport matching funds. The airports receiving the latest grants are Albuquerque, Atlanta, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, Seattle-Tacoma and Yeager. The FAA also announced recently that in efforts to remove harmful lead from general aviation fuel it had selected four unleaded fuels for the first phase of a test programme.
The VALE programme helps airports meet their air quality responsibilities under the US Clean Air Act and the FAA estimates 563 tons of ozone emissions are being reduced annually as a result. Through VALE, airports can use Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds and passenger facility charges to help acquire low-emission vehicles, refuelling and recharging stations, gate electrification and other airport-related air quality improvements.
For example, Albuquerque has received $431,479 to help replace four boilers in its central utility plant with upgraded low-emission technology. The $2 million awarded to Chicago O’Hare will allow the airport to install an underground fuel-hydrant system that will eliminate the need for diesel-powered fuel trucks. A similar grant will help Dallas-Fort Worth install 12 electric gates and seven pre-conditioned air units for parked aircraft. Also awarded $2 million, Seattle-Tacoma will use its grant to help with the installation of 43 charging units to support electric ground support equipment such as luggage loaders and aircraft tugs.
The smallest grant of $102,456 will enable Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta to purchase two alternative-fuel garbage trucks and convert two passenger vans to cleaner burning fuel instead of diesel. Yeager Airport in West Virginia has received the largest grant – $3,678,168 – to fund both gate power units and pre-conditioned air units at seven of the airport’s gates.
“The VALE grants support President Obama’s efforts to combat pollution and improve the air quality for residents in communities near these airports,” commented US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The FAA grants will help these airports reduce emissions and that helps the environment.”
Under an industry-government project to help the general aviation sector transition to unleaded aviation fuel, fuel producers submitted proposals to the FAA in July for further evaluation. The FAA has now selected four such fuels for the first phase of testing at its William J. Hughes Technical Center. Shell and Total, with one fuel each, and Swift Fuels, with two fuels, will now work with the FAA during the test period, which is due to conclude later next year.
Based on the results of laboratory and rig testing, the FAA expects two or three fuels will be selected for phase-two engine and aircraft testing. The testing will generate standardised qualification and certification data for candidate fuels, along with property and performance data. The entire testing process is expected to conclude in 2018.
Around 167,000 general aviation aircraft in the United States rely on 100 low-lead aviation gasoline (avgas), the last remaining transportation fuel in the nation that contains toxic lead. Most commercial airplanes, says the FAA, do not use leaded avgas.
Meanwhile in Brazil, Embraer’s ethanol-powered version of the Ipanema agricultural airplane has just passed its tenth year of production. The Ipanema remains the only plane in the world certified to fly on this type of biofuel, which is sourced from Brazilian sugarcane and also used in cars. Up until this year, 269 ethanol-powered planes have been sold, along with 205 conversion kits for Ipanemas that previously relied on avgas. Embraer says the aircraft on average puts about 44 pounds (20kg) less lead into the atmosphere each year, costs less to run and performs better than its avgas equivalent.