Non-CO2, Facility-Related Emissions

We report on a variety of facilities-related emissions in the Environment data section of this website. Our facility-related greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) are discussed in the Climate Change Facilities section. The metrics and data for our GHG emissions and our non-GHG, facility-related emissions can be found in the Environment data section.

In this section, we discuss how we are reducing emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at our facilities. VOCs are a significant aspect of Ford’s manufacturing operations due to the size and number of paint shops that we operate.

Since 2000, Ford’s North American operations have cut VOC emissions associated with the painting process (by far our largest source of VOC emissions) by more than 30 percent. In 2010, these operations emitted 21.6 grams of VOCs per square meter of surface coated. Because the control equipment used to reduce VOC emissions consumes significant amounts of energy, we have worked to identify innovative approaches to painting that meet cost, quality and production goals while allowing us to reduce energy use significantly and maintain environmental compliance.

In one innovative approach, Ford developed a “fumes-to-fuel” system in partnership with Detroit Edison. Initially tested at the Ford Rouge Center, the system concentrated fumes containing VOC emissions from solvent-based paint for use as fuel to generate electricity. The fuel was tested on a solid oxide fuel cell.

Generating electricity from paint fumes

Move over the numbers above to see what happens at each stage.

  1. Concentrator

    Strips air from paint fumes, leaving concentrated volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

  2. Reformer

    Ford-patented process converts VOCs to hydrogen gas

  3. Generator

    Uses hydrogen gas as fuel for fuel cell or conventional power plant to make electricity

To further support these research and development efforts, in 2008 a research facility was built at our assembly plant in Oakville, Canada, with support from the Canadian government. This site contains a production-scale version of the fumes-to-fuel system, including a paint emissions concentrator, a VOC fuel reformer, a 300 kW molten carbonate fuel cell and a 120 kW internal combustion engine. The intent of this technology is to collect a portion of the VOCs from the spray booth exhaust, then super-concentrate the VOCs in the paint emissions concentrator, followed by condensing the VOCs for use as a fuel for either the 120 kW internal combustion engine or as feed to the VOC reformer, which would then be used in the 300 kW molten carbonate fuel cell.

In 2010, the paint emission concentrator at this facility continued to run and generate solvent, and the internal combustion engine continued to be evaluated for long-term performance. In addition, the VOC reformer was started up, and operations are now being optimized for long-term performance. Research efforts are now underway with two Canadian universities to help drive the research and development of this innovative technology.

Ford’s fumes-to-fuel system, with or without energy generation, has the potential to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 80 percent to 85 percent compared to traditional abatement equipment. A fumes-to-fuel system with energy generation using the fuel cell also has the potential to eliminate nitrogen oxide emissions.

Moreover, we are reducing VOC emissions with an innovative paint process called “three wet.” This process reduces VOC emissions by 10 percent and has other environmental, financial and quality benefits. For more information on three wet, please see the Climate Change Facilities section.