Conditional environmental permit progresses Hong Kong International's plans for a third runway
A LED replacement programme has contributed to a 4.2% annual fall in HKIA electricity consumption
Wed 10 Dec 2014 – Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) has made what it considers a major step towards its proposed expansion of the airport to a three-runway system with a decision by the government’s Director of Environmental Protection to issue it with an environmental permit. The airport claims to be operating close to its maximum capacity but the expansion has proved controversial because of the potential impact on marine life in local waters, which has caused a delay in issuing the permit. The airport authority says it will now advance proposals for a promised marine park. The authority has also just released its annual sustainability report that shows a drop in electricity consumption at the airport despite growing passenger volumes, but waste disposal continues to present a challenge.
Built on largely reclaimed land on the island of Chek Lap Kok and opened in 1998, over 60 million passengers and 4.2 million tonnes of cargo passed through HKIA last year as a result of over 377,000 aircraft movements. Expanding the airport into a three-runway system (3RS) would allow it to meet long-term air traffic demand, while generating local employment and facilitating economic development, said Airport Authority CEO Fred Lam.
“The environmental permit marks a major step in Hong Kong’s pursuit of strengthening its long-term competitiveness and leading aviation hub status,” he said. Pledging compliance with the 18 conditions listed by the Environmental Protection Department, he added: “Our aim is to achieve a balance between economic development and conservation.”
Following a commitment in its environmental impact assessment report, the airport authority would now develop a management plan for a 2,400-hectare marine park, reported Lam. “We will also formulate and finance a detailed Marine Ecology Conservation Plan with support from relevant experts and stakeholder groups. The plan will outline our approach for the conservation of marine life, particularly the Chinese White Dolphins within Hong Kong and Pearl River Estuary waters.”
Now that the design for 3RS project has been substantially completed, the authority is reviewing the cost estimate and funding arrangement for the expansion and is required to submit its recommendation on how to take it forward before statutory government approval is finally granted. A report in the China Daily suggests the delay in securing the environmental permit has added to the costs of the HK$136.2 billion (US$17.5bn) project and further delays are possible.
However, said Lam: “We target to obtain all the necessary approvals to expand the airport, with the aim of having the 3RS fully operational in 2023.”
According to its latest sustainability report, which covers the fiscal year 2013/14, annual total electricity consumption at HKIA has dropped by 4.2%, despite passenger volume growing by 6.1%.
“This is one of our biggest environmental footprint reductions since the opening of the airport,” said Vincent Lo Hong-sui, Chairman of the Airport Authority Hong Kong.
The reduction was largely the result of LED replacement and chiller optimisation programmes. Upon completion of both, around 20 million kWh in electricity consumption per year will be saved, anticipates the authority, the equivalent to approximately 12,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. By 2013, the airport had reduced its carbon intensity by 17.9% since 2008 and is aiming for a 25% reduction by 2015.
The authority reports that it is working with the local airport community to address staff concerns over transportation to and from the airport and has set up a liaison group.
Hong Kong has a major problem dealing with waste disposal and its existing three landfills are projected to be full within the next few years. The airport is therefore taking steps to reduce the absolute amount of waste it generates and has set a long-term target of recycling 50% of airport waste by 2021. However, after an improvement in the recycling rate to 12.2% in 2012/13 from 11.3% the previous year, the rate slipped slightly to 12.1% in 2013/14. A waste management taskforce was set up in April this year, comprising the heads of key departments, to develop a strategy to meet the 2021 target.
A food waste recycling programme launched in 2003 has been extended to all catering outlets at the airport, as well as airline caterers and airport businesses. The collected waste is either converted into fish food at an off-site plant or composted into soil conditioner for landscaping use on the airport island. A ‘food rescue’ programme launched in partnership with a local NGO to provide surplus food to the underprivileged was launched in 2013.
“This sustainability report not only explains to our stakeholders the challenges of operating a world-class airport as it approaches capacity, but also the success stories and innovative solutions that demonstrate our ongoing commitment to the sustainable growth of HKIA,” said Lo.