We report on a variety of non-carbon-dioxide (CO2) facility 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 2012, these operations emitted 18 grams of VOCs per square meter of surface coated, down from 20 grams in 2011. 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.
Ford developed a Paint Emissions Concentrator (PEC) technology (formerly referred to as “fumes-to-fuel”), which uses a fluidized bed adsorber and desorber and condensation equipment to collect and concentrate solvent emissions into liquid form. The PEC system was first developed at a research facility we built at our assembly plant in Oakville, Canada, in 2008 with support from the Canadian government. The site contains a production-scale version of the equipment. The intent of the technology is to collect a portion of the VOCs from the spray-booth exhaust, super-concentrate them in the paint emissions concentrator, then condense and store them on site for use as fuel source. In this way, the solvent emissions are recycled back into the production process and overall VOC emissions are reduced. In 2012, the PEC at our Oakville facility continued to run and generate solvent, allowing for the capture and recycling of more than 17,000 gallons of solvent material.
Our PEC technology has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by 70 to 80 percent compared to traditional abatement equipment. PEC technology coupled with the recycling of collected solvents also has the potential to eliminate nitrogen-oxide emissions compared to conventional abatement approaches, which involve the oxidation of the solvents. There is also the potential to reform the captured VOCs into hydrogen, which could be used as a fuel for fuel cells. We are working with a Canadian university to drive the development of the PEC technology and evaluate the potential for producing and using hydrogen fuel.
We are also continuing to use 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, and 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, the motorhome and bus industries and other customers who want to use it.
Finally, 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.