A Cleaner Driving Force: Airports find benefits in alternative fuels

A Cleaner Driving Force by Jodi Richards, Associate Editor Airports find benefits in alternative fuels As airports across the nation try to clean up their image in the community, many are turning to alternative fuels, such as...


LAWA's Program

Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) began its alternative fuel program in 1993. After a decade, it has built its fleet to more than 350 vehicles, which is 47 percent of the airport's vehicles. The next goal: 50 percent by 2005.

According to Dave Waldner, assistant chief of construction and maintenance, LAWA primarily uses natural gas for its fleet, either compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG). He says although the airport has the infrastructure for both natural gas and propane, natural gas is preferred because it is a cleaner burning fuel.

LAWA has invested some $2.5 million in fueling infrastructure, and it owns and operates its own LNG station at LAX, at which LNG is also converted to CNG. LAWA also has a CNG fueling station at Van Nuys Airport.

"We started the program as a way to take a leadership role to help clean the air in and around the airport," Waldner says. "There were no laws or mandates at that time, but we felt that it would be a good thing in terms of our commitment to the community and efforts to our environmental programs."

Waldner says the airport uses some two million gallons of LNG per year for the LAWA fleet, some of which is converted for use in CNG vehicles.

The airport has a LNG-fueled shuttle bus fleet of 61 that transports passengers to the terminal from outlying parking lots, and, according to Waldner, has never experienced a disruption of service because it runs on alternative fuels. In total, the buses have logged "more than 8.7 million miles and over 700,000 hours of operation."

The airport continues to advance its program by adding alternative fuel vehicles and researching other options such as hydrogen fuel. Waldner says they are currently assisting a company that is interested in building a hydrogen fuel facility at the airport. "We're looking at how we can use new alternative fuel technology to further enhance our program," he says.

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