Paint fumes power Ford plant
Dearborn, MI— Ford Motor
Company is turning paint fumes into fuel, saving energy and money.
Piloted in 2004 at the Ford Rouge Center, Fumes-to-Fuel is turning
emissions from its painting operations into electricity for the
Michigan Truck plant.
The Fumes-to-Fuel process generates
55 kilowatt-hours of electric power every hour – enough
for an average city block. Ultimately, the system could power
one-third of the plant’s paint shop. The technology works
by pulling volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the paint air
emissions by using fluidized carbon beads. The cleansed air emissions
are then sent back into the environment. The scrubbed VOCs are
sent to a generator where they are transformed into electricity.
For years, Ford, like other automakers,
has been siphoning off the fumes from its paint booths and incinerating
them in natural gas-fired furnaces at temperatures of up to 1400
degrees Fahrenheit. Incinerators, which cost millions of dollars
to build and install, consume an enormous amount of energy—about
350 kilowatt-hours per hour.
The Fumes-to-Fuel system costs
less to install and maintain than existing furnaces, it virtually
eliminates carbon dioxide emissions and it enables the use of
higher-quality, solvent-based paint. Fumes-to-Fuel technology
could be used by any business that produces light hydrocarbon
emissions, such as the furniture and electronics business.
Mark Wherrett, one of the designers
of Fumes-to-Fuel technology, has spent his entire Ford career
helping assembly plants meet environmental regulations. “I
have worked on other Ford projects where the team helped change
legislation in other countries that benefited the environment,”
said Wherrett. “However, to take something that used to
be considered waste and turn it into fuel that makes electricity
and really moves the environmental needle is extremely rewarding.
The Fumes-to-Fuel technology,
developed in conjunction with DTE Energy, won an Environmental
Protection Agency “Clean Air Excellence Award” in
2004. Fumes-to-Fuel technology will be implemented in other plants
as equipment is updated and replaced.