Hanford vehicles go green

By Annette Cary, Herald staff writerMay 30, 2011 

Frank Armijo, the president of Hanford's Mission Support Alliance, drives around the nuclear reservation in a hybrid Chevy Tahoe.

It's one of more than 50 hybrids that are helping the Hanford fleet go green.

President Obama has called on the federal government through an executive order to lead by example toward a clean energy economy and reduce greenhouse gas pollution. At Hanford, Mission Support Alliance, the sitewide support services contractor, is in charge of leading the effort.

Its largest step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions has been to increase the number of cars used by three Hanford prime contractors and both DOE offices on site that run on E-85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent conventional fuel.

More than 600 cars, vans and service trucks on site now are alternative fuel vehicles that can fuel up with E-85, said Mike Wilson, vice president of logistics and transportation. That's more than half the light-duty, nondiesel vehicles used by Hanford's DOE offices and contractors Mission Support Alliance, CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. and Washington River Protection Solutions.

Last year, that avoided emissions of more than 2,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

It also helped the Mid-Columbia economy. The ethanol is produced in Boardman from locally grown corn.

Hanford workers fill their alternative fuel vehicles either at the Pacific Pride station in Richland or at a station in central Hanford, which Mission Support Alliance plans to expand, said David Baie, Mission Support Alliance fleet manager. In addition, this week the station will start pumping a blend of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent fossil fuel for cars that cannot run on E-85.

As cars need to be replaced in the Hanford fleet, they are being traded out for more alternative fuel vehicles, or in some cases, gasoline-electric hybrids.

Mission Support Alliance is interested in switching to some electric vehicles, but buying those cars in Washington is a challenge now, Baie said.

However, the contractor is preparing for the day they are more readily available. It's planning for eight to 10 electric charging stations at Hanford for plug-in electric vehicles and is starting to train mechanics to work on the cars.

In the meantime, it's purchased its first low-speed electric vehicle, a Global Electric Motorcar that can be legally driven on roads with posted speeds of 35 mph or less and can be charged using an ordinary office electrical outlet. The small vehicle, sold by Paul Parish Limited in Kennewick, can be used for carrying small loads between buildings or to support maintenance work.

Mission Support Alliance also is considering options for using natural gas as vehicle fuel to reduce greenhouse emissions as plans are being made to run a natural gas pipeline under the Columbia River to Hanford. The pipeline is proposed to supply some of the power that will be needed when Hanford's vitrification plant starts treating Hanford waste in 2019 or sooner, but could be sized for additional use at Hanford.

* More Hanford news at hanfordnews.com.

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