Port of Seattle studying waste-to-fuel options

King County and the Port of Seattle are going to jointly study the potential for converting municipal solid waste into renewable fuels, including sustainable aviation fuel for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).

Each government has allocated up to US$250,000 to pursue the technological and economic analysis by early 2023.

The technology and chemical process to convert municipal solid waste to renewable fuels including both renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel is rapidly developing and continuing to evolve in production facilities around the United States and world. This study will focus on the technological and economic factors for producing the fuel in the region for transport to SEA Airport.

As waste, composting, and recycling dynamics change in the Puget Sound region, this study can help the region find other uses for its waste stream while charting a course to significantly reducing emissions from aviation and other hard-to-decarbonize fuels.

This work will also help support economic development of the clean energy sector in this region and could help meet the production volume thresholds required in the Washington Clean Fuel Standard.

“Municipal solid waste exists in high supply and the airport needs significant amounts of sustainable fuel,” said Port of Seattle Commission President Fred Felleman.

“Previous analysis for the Port by Washington State University identified municipal solid waste as the most promising potential source of a locally produced, sustainable fuel. No matter what the study shows, just beginning this work with King County moves us closer to the economic and environmental benefits of becoming a zero-carbon port.”

“King County is tackling climate change, doing all we can through innovation to advance our goals – including cutting greenhouse gas emissions countywide in half by the end of this decade,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.

“Partnerships like this one with the Port of Seattle allow us to explore inventive solutions to complex challenges, protecting our environment and supporting the region’s economic development.”

“It is said that ‘one person’s trash is another’s treasure.’ As the operator of our regional solid waste disposal system and a landfill that is filling up, King County is searching for a sustainable next-generation disposal option,” said King County Council member Rod Dembowski.

“As the owner and operator of Boeing Field, we are also working to decarbonize our aviation footprint. Converting municipal solid waste into sustainable aviation fuel is an innovative idea that could well be the solution to critical environmental challenges facing our region. It shows that working together, creatively, we can take on and solve big challenges.”

Sustainable Aviation Fuels

To meet its Century Agenda goals, the Port seeks to ensure that 10 percent of the fuel used at SEA will come from sustainable sources found in the region by 2028. This means the Port needs to displace nearly 70 million gallons of fossil fuels by 2028.

In 2019, Washington State University produced a Port-funded report on potential northwest regional feedstocks for the production of sustainable aviation fuels. The WSU found Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to be the most readily available sustainable feed stock in the region.

The Port began working towards deployment of sustainable aviation fuels in 2004, working methodically through issues related to financing, infrastructure, supply, and public policy. This study would help generate support for creating production facilities to serve west coast clean fuel markets and could help meet the production volume thresholds required in the Washington Clean Fuel Standard.

King County

The Solid Waste Division (SWD) provides garbage transfer and disposal, and recycling services for approximately 1.3 million residents and 660,000 employees in King County. The King County solid waste system serves a large unincorporated area and 37 of the 39 cities in King County — the cities of Seattle and Milton are not part of the King County system.