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Port Employees Disrupt the Fuel Market with an Innovative Approach to Procuring Renewable Natural Gas

COVID-19 and travel at SEA Airport More Information

For over 100 years, innovation has been central to success at the Port of Seattle. The Port recognizes the entrepreneurial spirit of employees across the organization whose innovative ideas transform the way we work and serve our community.

Updated on February 8, 2021

Congratulations to the Renewable Natural Gas Procurement team on winning the 2020 Annual Innovation Award!

Current Updates and Development:

The RNG team has received a lot of media attention, spoken at several virtual conferences, and won an Energy Vision Award. The gas contracting and delivery has continued moving forward smoothly.

Stephanie Meyn has spoken on this contract and topic at the following conferences and working groups in 2019-2020:

  • American Biogas Council
  • Argonne National Lab
  • American Gas Association
  • RNG Coalition

Originally published July 2, 2020

2020 Q1/Q2 and Annual Innovation Award Winner:

In line with the Port’s Long Range Plan and Century Agenda, the 2020 Innovation Award winners procured a new source of renewable natural gas (RNG) that reduces our carbon footprint. About 70% of the SEA Airport’s carbon emissions (carbon footprint) from facilities it owns and operates are due to the natural gas used in its central boilers, which heats the entire airport terminal. Natural gas is also used to fuel the airport’s bus fleet that serves the Rental Car Facility and the North Employee Parking Lot. RNG is the only low carbon renewable fuel that can be used in the central boilers and for the bus fleets without replacing the two expensive systems entirely.SEA Boilers

To accomplish the project, a whole new set of skills and abilities were required, from procurement methods, to project pro forma analysis, to the legal nuances of contracting for RNG to ensure the transfer of green attributes including carbon reductions. While many companies have been contracting for a supply of renewable electricity from a wind or solar project for the last 30 years, doing the equivalent on the gas pipeline grid for a heating fuel is extremely rare, with less than ten such contracts existing in the U.S. As such, the RNG was not available on the open market and could only be procured through individual contracts with specific project developers (e.g., landfill owners, wastewater treatment plants, or agricultural/food waste digesters).

After several years of working with developers, researchers, and contacts at the local, state, and national level, Port employees issued a formal Request for Proposal (RfP) for a long term RNG supply. The RfP sent a clear signal to renewable natural gas producers and providers that large organizations like the Port are willing to pay a premium for renewable fuel over fossil fuels to meet its carbon reduction goals. While purchasing carbon offsets would be less expensive, the Port found that a more ambitious and direct solution that would put new sources of renewable gas on the pipeline grid and provide financial incentives needed to advance renewable fuel markets.

After years of learning from failures of new ideas, the final contract was signed in April 2020. This innovative approach to procuring RNGs has allowed us to meet our 15% reduction goal for 2020, and our 50% reduction goal for 2030 a full 10 years early. The team’s resiliency has displayed the desired Port culture of taking calculated risks, advancing economic development and sustainability, and constantly pursuing new ideas, persevering through frustrations and setbacks. Their effort to procure RNG is an inspiring example of Port team members collaborating and using their specific skills to develop an innovative, practical, and effective approach that benefits everyone in our region.

Well done and congratulations to the project team! 

Team members: Stephanie Meyn, Leslie Stanton, Elizabeth Leavitt, Arlyn Purcell, Ryan Stamper, Keith Warner, Farlis Lewis, Paul Reed, Mike Tasker, and Borgan Anderson

Innovation in the Midst of COVID-19

The disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have spurred the need for sudden and significant innovations. Frontline employees at the Port implemented new procedures to ensure the health and safety of themselves, their teams, and the community. Meanwhile, a large percentage of employees immediately began adjusting to working full-time from home, including implementing new strategies to maintain effective communication. The 2020 1st and 2nd Quarter Innovation Awards included a category for employee initiatives in response to COVID-19. The criteria considered the responsible use of resources, benefit of innovation, out of the box thinking, impact, and results achieved.

Aviation security with new touch screens

Special Category COVID-19 Innovation Winner

Aviation Security and Aviation Operations quickly joined forces to develop and implement new protocols that would help reduce the risk of spread to SEA Airport employees who continue to work on site at our facilities through the pandemic. By utilizing terahertz imaging technology, the team created new touchless screening protocols that is more thorough yet faster, less resource intensive, and less expensive. Effective screening is now conducted with 4 less screeners per location, enabling redeployment of resources to other tasks supporting regulatory requirements. With this new touchless screening process, employees could maintain physical distancing and eliminate physical contact while optimizing the efficiency rate of the screening process. SEA Airport is now a more secure and safer work environment.

Team members: Anthony McKenna and Aviation Security developed, trained, and implemented the enhanced protocols, and spearheaded the implementation of terahertz imaging. Aviation Operations provided the tools necessary to implement the new protocols.

SEA airport construction during covid-19
North Satellite Construction

Runner-up: North Satellite Project Team for Operation Silver Cloud

A creative approach to resequencing construction activities to take advantage of reduced passenger counts – finding the silver lining behind the pandemic cloud.

Team members: Ken Warren and Scott Thomas

Honorable Mention: Mindful Mornings

A daily meditation exercise that provides a calm and focused start to the day—even on the weekends!—to mitigate the increased stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic.

Team members: Amberine Wilson and Tracy Patterson 

Honorable Mention: Maritime Environmental and Sustainability for the Earth Day Story Map

A virtual celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, designed to virtually engage the community in the many environmental contributions of the Port and to highlight the collective efforts we need to achieve real environmental change. ICT and Public Affairs were partners in creating this online tool.

Team members: Ryan Child, Michelle Abunaja, Danielle Butsick, Sandy Kilroy, Jon Sloan, Cathy Fedele, and Cathy Swift

Published Date
Jul 02, 2020

The Port of Seattle is an equal opportunity employer M/F/D/V and is committed to diversity in the workplace.

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