Posts in the category "Environment":

Frying with Finnair to the UN Climate Summit

FinnairAirbus 330 HR_edited

Smell that?

The Airbus A330 making Tuesday’s Finnair flight from Helsinki to New York will be running on biofuel partly made from recycled cooking oil from restaurants.

It’s perfectly safe – and Finnair and several other airlines have done it before – but this flight is designed to coincide with the UN Climate Summit taking place in New York and draw attention to the fact that progress is being made on developing environmentally sustainable biofuel.

As Finnair reminds us, “most of an airline’s environmental impact arises from aircraft emissions during flight and switching to a more sustainable fuel source can reduce net CO2 emissions by between 50 and 80 per cent.”

But while everything from used cooking oil to plants, algae, municipal waste, recycled vegetable cooking oil, animal fat and sugarcane have been considered or tested in aircraft in search of safe, alternative, sustainable biofuels, the cost to make that alternative fuel is still at least twice as much – or more – than conventional jet fuel.

But along with Finnair, other airlines, including KLM and Alaska Airlines, airport operators, manufacturers and a variety of governments around the world are working on ways to lower the costs of creating these alternative jet fuels.

So it’s possible that soon you’ll be flying on a jet burning fuel made with old frying oil too.

Hungry herd on duty at Chicago O’Hare

Llama on duty at ORD - 2013

 

They’re back. They’re hungry. And they’re not picky eaters.

A herd of 37 goats, sheep, llamas and burros have been hired by Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to munch on poison ivy, noxious weeds and other unwanted vegetation along creeks, streams and roadway right-of-ways on airport property.

Part of the Chicago Department of Aviation’s (CDA) Sustainable Vegetation Management initiative for O’Hare, the critters are on loan from Settlers Pond, an animal rescue facility in Beecher, Ill.

A herd of about 25 animals was on duty last year from July through November eating unwanted vegetation. That helped the airport cut back on the use of emission-producing equipment and limited the use of toxic herbicides on some of the airport’s 8,000 acres of land.

This year, up to 120 acres of O’Hare land difficult to maintain with traditional landscaping equipment has been set aside for all-they-can-eat grazing. The herd, which spends evenings in transport vans nearby the grazing land, will stay at O’Hare until the weather gets too cold for the animals to access vegetation.

As before, all the sites where the animals graze are in areas far away from or separated from the airfield by security fencing.

Which means we shouldn’t be hearing any stories about take-offs or landings being delayed at O’Hare by a jackass running around on the runway.

At least two other U.S. airports have had animals help out with landscape management.

San Francisco International Airport has a herd of goats come by each year to assist with weed control and in 2012 a herd of 91 sheep and 10 goats participated help control vegetation at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

(My story about weed-eating at O’Hare International Airport first appeared on USA TODAY)

The buzz on bees at Seattle-Tacoma Int’l Airport

SEA BEES

Busy bees are hard at work in hives out on the property of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Inside the airport, there’s also now an exhibit with bee-themed art and educational information about the importance of pollinators.

Titled Flight Path, the exhibit explores bees and flight through a variety of mediums including paintings, blown glass and a mosaic and includes the work of 24 Northwest artists.

Last year, the airport hosted 18 hives. This year, the Port of Seattle is working with a local group called The Common Acre to host 1.5 million honeybees in 24 hives on unused vacant land near the runways.

Sea-Tac isn’t the only airport with hives. Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport has honeybee hives on property as well and products made from the honey is for sale inside the airport.

Bee outfit

Worms at LaGuardia Airport

There will be worms. And sunflowers.

Changi -Sunflower garden

Earth Day is coming up – and to spread the word about their green initiatives, the Food & Shops at LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B, JetBlue Airways and The Port Authority of NY & NJ are hosting a “Choose Green” event on Thursday afternoon with a hands-on composting worm exhibit, courtesy of the Queens Botanical Garden.

Not into worms? There will be coloring and face painting for kids and, for adults who say they’ll “Choose Green,” a chance to enter into a drawing to win two JetBlue tickets and get a free sunflower growing kit.

Not traveling through New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Thursday between noon and 4 pm? You can enter the contest on Twitter. More details here:

Drilling for oil & natural gas at airports

DEN AIRPORT Drilling rig

Courtesy Denver International Airport

Like other airports, Pittsburgh International supplements its revenue from airlines with fees from parking, concessions, advertising and other sources.

But now that the FAA has given its approval,  PIT can add funds from oil and gas drilling to its income ledger .

The airport has a deal with Consol Energy that came with a $50 million signing bonus and the promise of payments and royalties of an estimated $25 million annually for at least the next 20 years.

“Other airports have other advantages. They may have better flight patterns or be close to major markets,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “But we have this natural gas that others may not have.”

Federal Aviation Administration rules restrict how airports can spend drilling dollars and other non-aeronautical revenue.

“So we can’t take this new money and put it into the jail or the court system or the park system,” said Fitzgerald. The county is using the cash to reduce landing, terminal and ramp fees paid by airlines. “That makes us more desirable and will help us attract more airlines and more flights to our airport,” he said.

Pittsburgh International isn’t the first airport to dig deep in the ground for extra revenue. Drilling contracts generate cash for Dallas/Fort Worth, said DFW spokesman David Magaña.

DFW received a $186 million bonus from Chesapeake Energy for a natural gas exploration lease signed in 2006.

“We had plans for as many as 300 wells on airport grounds,” Magaña said, “but we stopped at 112 in 2010 because of the drop of natural gas prices in the market.”

In 2008, when drilling began, DFW earned $33.9 million in royalty revenue. In 2013 royalties were $5.3 million.

“We certainly earn more money from other things,” said Magaña. “For example, we probably earn about $120 million a year on parking. But the gas revenues are a bonus that allows us to do things we wouldn’t have done.”

Early on, DFW used drilling income to make terminal improvements that customers would “notice and appreciate,” said Magaña. That included replacing all seating and flight monitors and updating all the fixtures in the restrooms.

Denver International Airport has 76 wells on its property and in 2012 oil and gas production generated over $6.2 million.

“That revenue is not a large chunk of our budget,” spokesman Heath Montgomery said. “For comparison, last year we saw record concession revenue of about $295 million. But oil and gas production is a way of generating non-airline revenue to help offset the airlines’ cost of operating so the airport can remain globally competitive.”

In Denver, Suncor buys the oil and Anadarko buys the natural gas while the airport owns the wells and manages the overall system.

With three Reserve Oil & Gas gas wells that began producing in November 2013, 790-acre Yeager Airport in Charleston, W.Va., isn’t in the same league, drilling-wise, as Dallas and Denver.

“We expect a steady $40,000 a year in royalties over a 40-year period, said Yeager Airport director Rick Atkinson, “but for a budget of our size that’s nothing to sneeze at.”

Atkinson said the funds can’t be used “to remodel the director’s suite to look like I’m an oil baron,” but the additional revenue stream will enable the airport to do small additional projects each year.

To get permission, the FAA must determine that under the National Environmental Protection Act, the wells would have no significant impact on the environment, Atkinson said. The other divisions of the FAA approve the wells from an air-space and air-traffic-control aspect and for impacts on future aviation developments at the airport, he said.

Oklahoma City Airport oil drilling

courtesy World Rogers World Airport

In Oklahoma City, three airports—Will Rogers World Airport and two general aviation/corporate airports—together have 87 active wells, generating more than $2.5 million in revenue in 2013, about 2.5 percent of the revenue for the city’s Department of Airports.

Several oil rigs—some of them pumping—can be seen by passengers from the airfield.

“They’re not just there for decoration,” said airport spokeswoman Karen Carney.

Tulsa International Airport doesn’t have any wells but it does have a 13-foot-tall, 56-foot-wide mural by Delbert Jackson titled “Panorama of Petroleum.”

The city of Tulsa doesn’t allow drilling within city limits, so instead, “we celebrate the region’s position as a leader in the energy sector by displaying the mural—which was once displayed in the Smithsonian Institution—in our terminal,” airport spokeswoman Alexis Higgins said.

(My story about drilling for oil and natural gas at airports first appeared on CNBC Road Warrior)

 

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