New technology saves Pierce Co. $137,000 in ferry fuel costs

New technology saves Pierce Co. $137,000 in ferry fuel costs
Pierce County installed the Texas-based technology on the M/V Steilacoom II last June. (Photo courtesy Pierce County).

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. -- Mean, green fighting machines are taking over Washington waterways, wreaking havoc on rising ferry budgets and increasing fuel emissions; and Pierce County transportation leaders couldn't be more excited.

"We were amazed to see the results," said Deb Wallace, Public Works and Utilities airport and ferry administrator.

Wallace is referring to the money the county saved in fuel costs after installing technology from a Texas-based company on the engines of its two ferries: the M/V Steilacoom II and M/V Christine Anderson.

"In the last six months, we've seen a savings of 32.2 percent in fuel costs, and 23.4 percent savings in gallons used," Wallace said.

Last summer, Emissions Technology, Inc. asked Pierce County to participate in a pilot project using its UltraBurn Combustion technology on its boats.

"We looked at it, talked to people within our equipment services department to make sure it wouldn't harm the vessels," Wallace said. "As long as there was no harm, and there was potential to see a 5 to 10-percent savings, we thought it was a good thing."

Mark Spoon, CEO of the company, said their technology ultimately increases the combustion efficiency of an engine, resulting in more power while at the same time lowering the concentration of emissions. This same system had been used on engines in a number of other fields, such as mining, oil and gas drilling and rail transportation, but it was the first time on a ferry.

In the course of a year, Pierce County reportedly saved $137,770 in diesel fuel costs and approximately 23,657 gallons of diesel fuel. Wallace said based on these results the county is already looking at lowering their budget request for fuel next year by 20 percent.

Spoon said ferry systems lend themselves well to this type of technology, not only for fuel savings but also improving air quality.

"It dramatically reduces black smoke -- what we see in diesel engines when they start up," Spoon said.

The company has also worked with Skagit County, installing its technology on the engine of the M/V Guemes. Spoon said ferry administrators there really wanted to focus on reducing their carbon footprint, and over the course of a three-month test period they reported a 40-percent reduction in black smoke emissions.

Spoon said he believes this kind of technology can help the Washington state ferry system run cleaner and more efficiently while saving the state money.

Now, that they have results from both Pierce and Skagit counties' ferry systems, Spoon said Emissions Technology, Inc. plans to contact the Washington State Department of Transportation to see if more of the state's ferries can take advantage of this technology.

Official installation of the UltraBurn Combustion Catalyst System on the M/V Steilacoom II. (Photo courtesy Emissions Technology, Inc.)