Sustainability 2011/12

Climate Change and the Environment

Non-CO2, Facility-Related Emissions

We report on a variety of non-carbon-dioxide (CO2) facilities emissions in the Climate Change and 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 35 percent. In 2011, these operations emitted 20.4 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, a paint emissions concentrator was used to concentrate 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 the research and development efforts on the “fumes-to-fuel” system, 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 equipment, 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 2011, 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, generating valuable operating information. Efforts continued 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 CO2 emissions by 80 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.

In 2011, Ford introduced an innovative new windshield attachment process that reduces VOC emissions. The typical method to attach a windshield – used currently at Ford and throughout the industry – is to first wipe the glass with a solvent cleaner, then apply a primer and adhesive to secure the windshield to the vehicle. However, this method releases a small amount of highly undesirable solvent emissions. Ford’s new patented technology eliminates the use of the solvents that contain VOCs and simplifies the manufacturing process by reducing steps, such as wiping the glass clean. Ford is working with Plasmatreat, an Illinois-based supplier, to implement the technology. The technology will be offered worldwide first in equipment that Plasmatreat plans to sell or lease to Ford, then to other automakers, the heavy truck market, motor home and bus industries and other customers who want to use it.

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 Operational Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions section.