Management & Operations

Seattle works to cut bus emissions

Posted on July 1, 2001

The Diesel Technology Forum and several local governments and area businesses in Seattle are working together to use the latest clean diesel technology to cut emissions from large and heavy-duty vehicles in the area. The engine emissions clean up will not only encompass new vehicles, but will also upgrade existing vehicles to cleaner air standards. In all, the efforts should reduce diesel pollution in the area by 90%, helping the four-county region not only obtain cleaner air, but comply with national air quality standards. In addition, the new technology will virtually eliminate hydrocarbon emissions. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, King County, the City of Seattle and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will all be involved. Diesel engines are valuable to large fleets because the chemical structure of the fuel delivers more power per unit than any other type of fuel, providing superior fuel efficiency. Diesel powers 60% of all buses and virtually all rail transport, reducing the consumption of petroleum-based fuels greatly. Jim Boon, maintenance manager of the King County Metro, said this program is on the forefront of the clean diesel program. By law, all companies will have to follow suit by 2006, when the new EPA standards for cleaner air take effect. Boon discussed some of the growing pains associated with being the first to try such a radical new technology. “One of the reasons it is so expensive, being on the leading edge as technology shifts, is normally you can move diesel fuel in the pipeline. But because we’re moving such small quantities and it can’t be contaminated by other fuels in the pipeline, it has to be brought down by truck,” he said. That adds an extra 8 cents per gallon in transportation costs on top of the additional 8 cents the cleaner-burning fuel will cost. However, Boon added that it will probably be only four or five years until the low-sulfur diesel is moved through a pipeline of its very own. “In five years, the law kicks in, then everybody will have it and they will run it in a pipeline, taking the older diesel out of the pipeline,” Boon said. Cummins and Detroit Diesel Corp. are helping to garner enough support both publicly and privately to purchase the fuel in an effort to raise demand and lower transportation and refinery costs. “The fuel is now like micro-brewed beer, but by the middle of 2006, all refineries across the U.S. will be required to produce this fuel,” said Boon.

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