Sea-Tac Centralizes PCA

(Seattle – August 13, 2013) – The Port of Seattle continues to go green by turning on the air conditioner (or heater) for your next plane ride at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. With this new service, airlines are expected to save more than $15 million in annual fuel costs, and the airport will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40,000 metric tons – the equivalent of taking 8,000 cars off the road.

“Pre-conditioned air is truly a win-win for the airport, airlines and the surrounding community,” said Elizabeth Leavitt, director of Planning & Environmental Management, Sea-Tac Airport. “This long-range investment by the airport will save money for the airlines, reduce our carbon footprint, clean the air of emissions and reduce noise for our neighbors.”

The recently implemented PCA service heats or cools the aircraft during boarding and deplaning. The port built a centralized plant to deliver pre-conditioned air through 15 miles of pipes to each of the airport’s 73 jet gates. This system allows aircraft to shut down their auxiliary power units, which emit CO2 gases and other emissions, and add to airline fuel costs. In one year, airlines operating at Sea-Tac will save an estimated five million gallons of fuel.

"We're excited to work with our partners at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on the debut of this innovative new system," said United's General Manager at SEA, Jonna McGrath. "At United, we are focused on taking actions that shape an environmentally sustainable future for the industry and this new system helps us do just that."

PCA provides both environmental and financial benefits in keeping with the Port’s Century Agenda goal to reduce the airport’s carbon footprint and increase energy needs through conservation and renewable sources. Each year, PC Air will save:

An estimated 5 million gallons in fuel.

  • $15 million in fuel costs by the airlines.
  • 40,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide) - the pollution that causes global warming.
  • 73 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx) - a nationally regulated air pollutant.
  • Greenhouse gas savings are equivalent to removing 8,000 cars off the road.
  • And noise pollution from aircraft parked at the gates.

In addition, Sea-Tac obtains about 90 percent of its power from hydro-electric dams and 10 percent from renewable energy and nuclear sources. Both the cooled and heated air generated from PC Air emits substantially less pollution than the petroleum jet fuel in the aircraft’s auxiliary engines.

Sea-Tac took advantage of the largest federal grant of its kind to offset the costs of the $43 million project. Nearly $22 million is covered by Voluntary Airport Low Emissions Grants from the Federal Aviation Administration. Airport Development Funds, which come directly from fees charged to airlines, will pay the remainder. These fees will be offset by decreasing operating costs for a projected payback for the project in less than three years!

Startup of the project began at gates on the A and B concourses along with the south satellite. The remaining concourses and north satellite are expected to come on line by the end of 2013.

More Central Plant Details
More than 15 miles of piping installed within the existing terminal connects all of the gates to a system of chillers and heaters to provide the pre-conditioned air. The central plant houses four 750 ton chillers that fill 16 ice storage tanks with ethylene-glycol solution cooled by electricity furnished by the airport. Four secondary pumps circulate the chilled liquid through pipes to the gates for cooling. Alternately, the airport’s steam plant heats water that is piped to gates for heating. A heat exchanger at the gate directs the conditioned air through a telescoping duct on the jet bridges, to a ventilation hose and directly into the aircraft’s cabin.

Watch a video describing the new service and its benefits.