Swedavia's world-first biogas snow removal equipment

Environmental Infrastructure

STOCKHOLM - For the first time, snow removal at airports can be carried out using biogas-fuelled snow removal equipment that is environmentally sustainable.

Snorojare Biogas 1024Swedavia, which operates and develops the ten most important airports in Sweden, has a target of zero fossil carbon dioxide emissions from its own operations by 2020. Since 2005, Swedavia has reduced its emissions of fossil carbon dioxide by 69%, to 3,800 tonnes in 2013.

Now a critical step is being taken to meet that target in full since new snow removal equipment has been adapted to run on renewable biogas. Swedavia is investing about SEK 200 M in the new vehicles through to 2016. This investment is both economically and environmentally sustainable. In addition to reduced carbon dioxide emissions, it means lower fuel costs and a standardised fleet of vehicles with lower maintenance costs. The development work is being carried out together with vehicle manufacturers Aebi Schmidt and Volvo. The fleet has otherwise largely been replaced by electrically powered vehicles.

“The great majority of our remaining fossil carbon dioxide emissions will be eliminated while at the same time operations will become even more efficient since we are involved in developing new sustainable technology. As a state-owned company, it is also our responsibility to lead development in this area forward,” says Torborg Chetkovich, chief executive of Swedavia.

For the ploughing of runways at Stockholm Arlanda Airport, up to ten vehicles operate in formation at the same time. In that way, they plough, sweep and blow the 2,500–3,500 metre-long landing runways clean in about eight minutes. The new vehicles, which are 15 metres long and weigh close to 30 tonnes with the plough attachment, then plough, sweep and blow the remaining snow at a speed of 130 metres a second. When ten vehicles are used at once, 400 litres of fuel are consumed in an hour. Operating on biogas will reduce vehicle emissions in the short term by 70% using the current diesel mix. However, Swedavia’s goal is to replace that diesel mix with renewable diesel by 2020 at the latest, which means zero emissions of fossil carbon dioxide for the entire Swedavia Group.

Both engines on the snow removal machines, one in the front and one in the back, have separate systems for the biogas. The front engine operates the vehicle while the back engine operates a rotating brush roller and the fan for the blowing unit. The engines can run entirely on methane gas during snow removal using an advanced direct injection system.

So far, Swedavia has ordered 29 new snow removal machines, eight of which will be delivered this winter.