Innovative Technologies Group
More than ten years ago, Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District started the Innovative Technologies Group (ITG) program with $7 million from oil companies planning projects in the county. The money was designated for voluntary projects to reduce emissions of air pollutants that form smog. Over the past decade, by leveraging funding through creative partnerships, ITG has sponsored $22 million in projects. More than 100 manufacturers, businesses and organizations have participated in the program.
Two achievements of ITG in 1998 are of particular interest for the USEPA Region Nine Earth Day award. Both illustrate ways in which the ITG program goes beyond the traditional air agency role to achieve air pollution reductions in two areas — transportation and agriculture — in which APCD has no regulatory authority.
Clean Air Express Dual-Fuel Bus Project
In January of 1998, ITG, working with many public and private partners, launched the Clean Air Express Dual-Fuel Bus Project, putting the nation’s first dual-fuel commuter buses on the road. Engines in four buses run simultaneously on compressed natural gas (85%) with supplemental diesel fuel (15%), reducing NOx emissions by up to 50 percent. The dual-fuel engine has received certification for low NOx from the California Air Resources Board. While this engine has been used in heavy-duty trucks and urban transit buses, this project represents the first time it has been used in a highway bus application. The four buses transport more than 200 commuters from the Lompoc area to and from Santa Barbara and Goleta. Each bus travels an average of 120 miles per day, or more than 30,000 miles per year.
Partners in this project include the City of Lompoc, the Federal Transit Authority, the California Energy Commission, Southern California Gas Company, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Caterpillar, Inc. The dual fuel technology in use in this project can potentially be used to convert thousands of diesel-powered buses and trucks to dual-fuel operation. This project will provide the information needed to expand use of this important technology.
Agricultural Booster Pump Program
In 1998, ITG also worked with farmers to reduce air pollution from farm equipment. ITG’s agricultural booster pump program gives farmers incentives to replace older water pump engines with new low-emission engines, reducing emissions of NOx by as much as 75 percent. The pump engines are used to boost water pressure for farm irrigation systems. Without the ITG-offered incentive, farmers would typically choose to rebuild rather than replace the older high-emitting diesel pump engines — and these engines would remain in service for many years. In 1998, ITG worked with farmers to replace 29 pump engines, reducing emissions of NOx and reactive organic gases (ROG) by 145 tons over the life of the project. The emission reductions are particularly significant since the pumps are used most during the county’s peak smog season.
The agricultural booster pump project demonstrates a commitment on the part of ITG to reach out and build partnerships that did not previously exist in the name of cleaner air. Since the newer engines are more fuel-efficient and easier to maintain, the farmers benefit as well.
ITG’s 1998 achievements illustrate the program’s flexibility. The dual-fuel bus project introduces new innovative technology in a challenging application. The agricultural booster pump project accelerates the application of proven technology in an industry area not typically addressed by air agencies. Recognition of these achievements will support future development of this important program.