Vancouver is one of the warmest cities in Canada. Airports International asked its international airport how it copes with winter weather, given its unpredictability on the country’s west coast.
How challenging is winter in your location?
Vancouver has a moderate, oceanic climate, as it is protected by the mountains and warmed by the Pacific Ocean currents. Our summer months are typically dry, often resulting in moderate drought conditions, usually in July and August. In contrast, the rest of the year is rainy, especially between October and March.
This can make it a challenge to manage winter conditions at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) as they are infrequent relative to the rest of Canada. While there is some seasonal support in the way of contractors on call, the conditions are largely managed by Airport Authority staff who have been cross trained in other winter related functions.
Is there a lot of pressure on airports in general to embrace green technology and practices?
At YVR, we are boldly pursuing a greener and more resilient future and have committed to eliminating emissions from our operations, becoming net-zero by 2030. Our operations are carbon neutral as of 2020. We will also continue our work to divert waste from the landfill, improve ecosystem health and reduce our water consumption.
Is the airport proactive when it comes to taking environmental measures?
YVR’s 2020 – 2024 Environmental Management Plan (EMP), developed every five years, outlines the initiatives that will enable us to achieve our climate goals and to support the work of our partners. Specifically, it sets clear, measurable activities and targets in four key areas: achieving net zero carbon, reducing waste to landfill by 60%, reducing per passenger water use by 50% and protecting our ecosystem health by being certified as a Salmon-Safe airport.
Airports Going Green awarded YVR with an Honourable Mention for Outstanding Sustainability Program for the airport’s Roadmap to Net Zero. We also received an honourable mention at the ACI Environmental Achievement Awards earlier this year and the communications campaign to launch it received Best Overall Public Relations Program for Large Airports from ACI North America.
Is winter a more challenging time to be environmentally-friendly?
The winter months pose their own set of unique environmental challenges. At YVR, we typically use more natural gas to heat our buildings and operate our snow operations vehicles and equipment to keep critical airport infrastructure clear of snow and ice. We are constantly looking at new technologies and approaches for mitigating our higher energy and fuel consumption during these colder times of the year. For example, YVR will implement the use of renewable natural gas in our boilers. The airport is also investigating renewable diesel for our heavy-duty fleet vehicles and equipment that cannot be feasibly electrified to reduce our emissions and meet our climate action goal to become net-zero by 2030.
Which environmental measures come into play over winter at the airport?
YVR has extensive glycol recovery practices as glycol discharge is an important measure that comes into play over winter at YVR. We have a robust water quality monitoring programme that ramps up in the winter, especially on snow days, as we measure concentration levels of glycol in surface water around the airport to ensure they are within safe levels when exposed to the environment.
Do third parties handle any winter ops for you, and what is ‘green’ about them?
Ground handlers at YVR must meet a minimum 50% electrification of their equipment and all new smaller pieces of equipment must be electric – however this is required all year long.
At YVR our Centralized De-icing Facility is operated by Aeromag, and in 2021 the company took delivery of an electric de-icing truck, which not only improves the direct working environment for employees, but also reduces exhaust emissions and their carbon footprint. We will focus on learning about its benefits to inform future fleet decisions.
What are the biggest challenges in term of being green in winter?
One of the biggest challenges is that many specialised heavy-duty vehicles and equipment for snow operations do not have electric alternatives that are readily available in today’s market, or the cost premium is still too high. Where it is possible to make changes, like in our light fleet and that of our contractors, we have had some success in making improvements in electrification and will continue to do so.
How do you see environmental practices in terms of winter ops developing?
YVR will continue to work with our business partners to move to low carbon solutions on our airfield. This may include electric equipment, where available, or using renewable diesel or other emerging fuels in our fleet to reduce emissions. This will be a community effort to bring forward reliable options for this type of airport equipment given it is so specialised.
What is the environmental strategy for the airport over the next five-10 years?
Our 2020 – 2024 Environmental Management Plan (EMP), developed every five years, outlines the initiatives that will allow us to achieve our climate goals and to support the work of our partners. Specifically, it sets clear, measurable activities and targets in four key areas: achieving net zero carbon, reducing waste to landfill by 60%, reducing per passenger water use by 50% and protecting our ecosystem health by being certified as a Salmon-Safe airport [by means of a scheme that monitors land and water management within the urban realm].
Image: Vancouver International Airport