Life cycle assessment of heated airfield pavement system for snow removal
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Airport operations are heavily and repeatedly impacted by snow and ice during winter seasons. Considering the potential economic losses resulting from ice/snow-related flight delays and airport shutdowns, there is a significant need to maintain the runways and taxiways free of snow and ice at all times. Traditional snow removal systems that employ de-icers and anti-icers have the potential to generate Foreign Object Debris (FOD) and could cause damage to aircraft parts and the pavements. In addition, traditional snow plows and equipment have difficulty accessing critical airside operations areas such as the apron/gate areas. An emerging technology, referred to as the heated pavement systems (HPS) are promising alternatives to traditional snow removal systems. Although heated pavement systems have been used widely in European countries for airport snow removal, there are no practical applications in US, and their environmental impacts were unknown. The purpose of this research is to evaluate and quantify greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy consumptions of heated pavement systems applied in airfield in order to give decision makers a more informed view in snow removal application selections. As the very first research on environmental impacts of heated pavement systems in removing snow, this research includes three individual studies. Each one builds on the understanding of previous one.
The first study uses life cycle assessment (LCA) to compare geothermal heated pavement system (GHPS) and traditional snow removal system applied in airport runway by evaluating their energy consumptions and GHG emissions. This study analyzes construction and operation phases of both snow removal systems. According to the limited data from previous studies, results show no significant differences between the construction phases of two snow removal systems. Also, airports show more interests in applying this new technology in airport apron area instead.
The second study is focused on energy consumption, GHG emission, and costs of operating geothermal heated pavement system, hydronic heated pavement system using electrical water heater, and hydronic heated pavement system using natural gas boiler, in removing snow from apron area. Different coefficients of performances of geothermal heated pavement system operations are analyzed in order to evaluate the behaviors of the systems. The results show geothermal heated pavement system has the least environmental impacts, and when efficiency of natural gas boiler energy extraction is improved, it can be a better alternative for place where there is not enough geothermal energy from the environmental and economic perspectives.
Based on the knowledge gained from previous two studies, the third study utilizes hybrid LCA to analyze energy consumptions and GHG emissions from apron snow removal operations. It evaluates the operations of four types of snow removal systems, hydronic heated pavement system using geothermal heat pump (HHPS-G), hydronic heated pavement system using natural gas furnace (HHPS-NG), electrically heated pavement system (EHPS), and traditional snow removal system (TSRS) applied in airport apron area. The life cycle analysis in this study is relatively more comprehensive than the previous two studies, it gives decision maker or airport manager a more informed view of operating heated pavement systems in removing snow from energy saving and global warming potential aspects.
This overall research shows heated pavement systems have potential to substitute for traditional snow removal system in decreasing energy demand and GHG emissions during apron snow removal operations. Because the theoretical models used to calculate energy consumption and GHG emissions from different types of snow removal systems are still under development, the results reported from this research should be taken into account from a qualitative view, and more comprehensive assessments which include broader system boundary are required for future study.