Portland International Jetport plans for a sustainable future

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PORTLAND — A brisk breeze sliced through the air last week as Dave Tourigny cleared snow from the the top floor of the Portland International Jetport parking garage.

Meanwhile, just off Jetport Boulevard, vehicles squeezed past a South Portland-based Clean Harbors tanker truck unloading recaptured propylene glycol brought north from Newark, New Jersey.

The actions might have been unnoticed in the ebb and flow of Jetport activity, but in their way they are integral to sustainability efforts that will be highlighted in a  developing master plan.

“Sustainability is multiple fronts – governance, community and how we invest our scarce resources,” airport Director Paul Bradbury said Feb. 26.

The master plan process is now in its infancy, with a committee of officials from the city, South Portland and Westbrook, as well as representatives from airlines, food service, and rental car agencies coming together to compile an inventory of airport operations and business practices on topics including waste management and fuel use.

The next public meeting on the process is expected to be in May, but a date has not been scheduled.

The snow clearing and glycol collection are examples of the paths being explored.

Snow on the garage roof is no longer trucked away and dumped. It is melted on site in a gas-fired heater and drains as storm water.

The propylene glycol used for de-icing at the Jetport and other East Coast airports is distilled back to purity by Inland Technologies International. The process prevents oxygen-depleting glycol from threatening the Casco Bay estuary and results in 99 percent pure glycol that can be resold for other industrial uses.

These processes join others that are already part of the Jetport routine.

The terminal expansion completed in 2011 is heated and cooled with geothermal sources, and aircraft are heated and cooled during idle hours using Jetport sources, so jet engines can be fully shut down.

“What we have done well is on an ad-hoc basis,” Bradbury said, adding the master plan will give more formal structure to all aspects of how the Jetport can embrace sustainability in philosophy and practicality.

Bradbury said the goal in the expansion was to achieve Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design certification, known by its LEED acronym. The end result was certified at the highest LEED level.

The sustainability study and plan development is a part of the larger master plan update, using about $350,000 of the $1 million in funding from a Federal Aviation Administration grant.

Opened in 1967, expanded in 1980 and again in 2011, the Jetport sits on 636 acres straddling the border with South Portland, stretching almost from the Maine Turnpike to the Fore and Stroudwater rivers.

For all that has been achieved, Bradbury said there is a lot more to consider, including waste collection and recycling. The Jetport and businesses serving it now recycle about 10 percent of the solid waste generated, the goal is to reach 50 percent.

“I thought we were better than that,” Bradbury admitted. He noted Jetport restaurants are recycling cooking oil, and the terminal has bins to recycle items.

Better recycling requirements could be a part of future business leases, once better practices are identified, he said.

Yet there will always be the challenge of arriving aircraft needing to be turned around quickly. A crew cleaning the plane does not have as much time to separate solid waste into recyclables.

“You have a $60 million asset you cannot afford to have dwell,” Bradbury said.

Sustainability has its trade-offs, too, Bradbury noted. In order to recapture de-icing fluids, departing aircraft must go to the Inland Technologies site, instead of being de-iced at the terminal.

Inland Technologies operations supervisor Adam Thurlow said the de-icing occurs any time there is freezing precipitation. Fluids are channelled to a collection area, pumped into tanks, and eventually boiled and distilled down to glycol.

“Portland was very forward thinking,” Thurlow said. “We have become a central processing site for the East Coast.” Inland processed more than 600,000 gallons from off-site sources last year, and the process earned the 2014 Maine Water Environment Association Pretreatment Excellence Award.

Bradbury is also looking to the airline industry for some improvements, because changes in technology will reduce fuel consumption and emissions. That has an added benefit for Jetport neighbors.

“The more efficient (the aircraft) are in fuel, the more quiet they are,” he said.

He also expects larger planes will be able to use the Jetport.

“I think the aircraft technology is going in a way that requires less infrastructure,” Bradbury said. “They won’t need longer runways.”

Sustainability also means profitability, Bradbury said, noting the Jetport competes with Logan Airport in Boston and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire.

A major selling point is the early departures linking Portland to other East Coast airports and beyond, although it can also inhibit use of public transportation to get to the Jetport because customers have to arrive so early.

Developing and implementing the plan will take collaboration, Bradbury said.

“There are 1,000 badged employees out here, but only 55 work for me and the city,” he said. “So how do you get that shared vision and motivation? Part of it is by doing the plan and getting out there and selling.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Sidebar Elements

Portland International Jetport employee Dave Tourigny dumps snow on the top floor of the airport parking garage Feb. 26. Snow is melted with a gas-powered heater and drains away with storm water.

Flights departing the Portland International Jetport stop first at this de-icing station, which recaptures propylene glycol and then re-distills it so it can be resold. 

Inland Technologies supervisor Adam Thurlow holds bottles of propylene glycol used to de-ice aircraft at Portland International Jetport. The company also receives collected de-icing fluids from other airports and purifies it into glycol that can be resold.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.