There is a clear and direct argument given by Spain-headquartered engineering solutions provider ADELTE as to why pretty much “all airports should use pre-conditioned air units” (PCAs) instead of wasting money, fuel and other resources by allowing airlines to use their auxiliary power units (APUs) for conditioning air onboard an aircraft
Among the priorities of nearly all airports and airlines alike are, undoubtedly, to increase efficiencies and save money where they can, while remaining conscious and active in protecting the health of people and the environment. There is an urgent need for airports to act on reducing their carbon footprint, something that is agreed on as imperative. For example, the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) and the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme are both looking towards limiting the use of APUs – and steps have already been implemented at airports worldwide, from Australia to Switzerland.
Martin Westphal, marketing director, ADELTE, states that the company’s PCAs, thanks to their full Inverter Series, can achieve exactly this for airports; they are “good for the environment and profitable for airports and airlines”, the company proclaims.
ADELTE gave a lengthy presentation on the benefits of using its PCAs at the Smart Airports Conference that ran alongside this year’s inter airport Europe in Munich, one of the largest events in ground support and airside operations in the industry.
Welcomed onto the stage at inter airport, aircraft ground servicing manager Marc Flamme said: “We are delighted to be given the opportunity to propose the subject of a way to reduce carbon footprint thanks to ground support equipment referred to as PCAs.” There is clear evidence that airports around the globe are limiting the use of APUs on stationary aircraft: it is not just a “Scandinavian fantasy”, Flamme pointed out during the inter airport presentation.
Flamme notes that whatever happens, “Air transportation is a growing business”, and the billions of passengers that are flown around the world each year expect “decent treatment” onboard their aircraft. While on the ground between flights, the cabin of an aircraft requires air conditioning to maintain an acceptable level of comfort, explains Flamme. After all, as he says, airports are continually investing in “comfy” terminals, so why should the onboard experience be any different?
An APU is an essential piece of safety equipment, providing electricity, pressurisation and air conditioning during the flight in case of a main engine failure. The APU on the ground is mainly used to start the main engines, and possibly to generate onboard electricity and supply conditioned air for the cabin.
When an aircraft is stationary, the use of an APU is “obviously not very efficient”, Flamme informs. He notes that the efficiency rate can be as low as 4-5%, as the APU burns through kilogrammes of fuel. The cost of maintaining the APU and battery packs is also high, adding to the costs of fuel burning.
Fuel prices are currently very much in flux, Flamme observes: oil companies are justifying the price-per-barrel hike as they attempt to find new sources of ‘black gold’. The use of fuel has implications for emissions and the environment too. “One kilo of fuel in the left hand is three kilos of C02 in the right hand,” as Flamme explains. Moreover, other pollutants such as NOx (nitrogen oxide) and PMs (particulate matters) are also generated by the combustion of jet fuel in the APU, and these have direct and severe impacts on the health of airport workers. They also have implications for the environment and the health of residents in surrounding areas, as most airports are located close to a city.
Flamme states that PCAs answer a lot of these problems: PCAs use electricity from the grid instead of burning jet fuel, making pre-conditioned air more efficient and cost saving. And this is particularly the case with the introduction of the Inverter technology that ADELTE’s PCAs use. The technology employs a finer regulation that offers “higher efficiency and lower electrical consumption”. Moreover, the Inverters do not run at full capacity unless needed, offering additional energy saving and also allowing for a long life expectancy and thus good value for money. Last but not least, ADELTE Inverter Series units provide heating by operating as a heat pump, even at outside air temperatures as low as minus 6°C.
ADELTE’s PCAs are also flexible in their installation, Flamme explains. They can be bridge- or ground-mounted, with air distribution achieved via a telescopic tube, or ground-mounted with the air distributed underground. This gives customers even more flexibility when aiming to reduce emissions and save money.
ADELTE is also keen to note that PCAs in the past have been primarily and even exclusively used for cooling aircraft. The company explains that this situation is changing and PCAs are now usable for heating. “We know about the temperatures in Dubai and Phoenix, Arizona.”
Earlier this year, ADELTE highlighted at inter airport, “but what about Stockholm and Brussels?” The parameters that ADELTE currently works with are to operate in cooling mode when ambient temperatures are superior to +20ºC and heating when inferior to +10ºC. As the global network of airlines extends into colder climates, passengers need to be kept warm in colder airports.
With its PCA technology, airports can reduce emissions, noise and gain a fast return on investment within two to three years, according to ADELTE. A study on Geneva Airport, which uses a Zephir Inverter, was used to demonstrate this. If an airport wishes to see exactly how much it could save, ADELTE also provides an online PCA cost-saving simulator on its website, allowing potential customers to calculate the value of using a PCA.