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Propane at Airports

Airports are essential infrastructures in today’s global community. Often as large as complete cities on their own, especially major international airports such as New York’s JFK and Los Angeles International who handle hundreds of flights every day and thousands of passengers.

Ever since commercial aviation started to become more popular, mainly after WWII, there have been concerns about the environmental impact of airports on their surroundings. This is especially the case with airports that are located very near to, or even in, residential areas.

To service those hundreds of aircraft daily, huge fleets of ground service vehicles are needed – passenger stairs, towing trucks, baggage equipment, fuel, catering and toilet servicing trucks, etc. And of course all these vehicles need fuel to run on. Propane is an alternative fuel that’s becoming more popular, one of the reasons being that propane prices are lower than gasoline.

There already is a whole range of low-emission vehicles available for use in and around airports. Apart from buying new vehicles that already have propane engines installed, almost any vehicle can be retrofitted with engines running on propane. With a calculated service life of 20 years, the cost of installing a propane engine will be eliminated by the huge savings. The possibilities are numerous and include vehicles that are normally not directly related to an airport – such as hotel shuttle buses and even maintenance equipment such as lawn mowers.

Propane is a clean, safe and reliable alternative fuel. Compared to gasoline, emissions are reduced considerably:

- 60 to 70% less hydrocarbons
- 12% less carbon dioxide, 20% less nitrous oxide and 60% less carbon monoxide
- With a reduction of up to 96%, the emission of toxins and carcinogens such as benzene and toluene are almost eliminated entirely.

The use of propane is also much better for the engine. As it has an octane rating of 104, it allows for a higher compression ratio and with that it makes an engine run more efficiently compared to gasoline, which has an octane ratio between 91 and 98.
Vehicles running on propane have the best fuel-efficiency available, giving a higher mileage to the gallon than any other fuel. The engines also have a longer service life, and the maintenance intervals are further apart as well.

Of course, the action at an airport does not only take place outside, on the tarmac. Terminal buildings are also essential for handling all those passengers. Propane gas is an excellent source of energy for heating systems, for example. Catering companies preparing thousands of meals per day for airlines and airport restaurants can save considerably on their yearly energy costs by utilizing propane gas in their installations.

The costs for installing a propane tank, pump and metering equipment are only 10% to 25% of a similar installation for compressed natural gas with the same capacity.

Propane installations can also serve as essential stand-by power equipment or co-generators. With so many different application possibilities, propane gas truly is the fuel of the future.

About the Author: Independent Author in Thailand

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