Safety and environmental considerations are strong arguments for transporting fuel by rail.

Safety and environmental considerations are strong arguments for transporting fuel by rail.

Until just a few years ago, all of the aviation fuel used at Stockholm Arlanda Airport was transported by ship to the Port of Stockholm, then trucked through city streets to a northbound highway and some 45 kilometers out to the airport. About sixty tanker trucks, operated by the storage and transportation company AFAB, were required each day to supply fuel to Arlanda.

This heavy truck traffic on Stockholm’s streets was undesirable both from a safety perspective and because of the negative environmental impact, so together with logistics experts at Green Cargo, AFAB set out to develop a new solution that would significantly reduce the problem.

That new solution has been in use since 2006, with tanker ships now delivering the fuel to the Port of Gävle, 175 kilometers north of Stockholm, where it is transferred to trains running into a tank depot just outside the airport grounds. The final leg of the journey takes place in underground pipelines.

There are several advantages to this new transportation solution. First, fuel shipments by truck through the center of Stockholm are eliminated, which improves safety and reduces traffic congestion and pollution. The transportation itself is simpler and more convenient, with faster loading times at the port and deliveries taking place at a few pre-determined times each day, rather than a steady stream of trucks arriving at the airport.

Emission cuts

There are also substantial gains in terms of reduced climate impact. Compared with the previous solution, by boat to Stockholm and truck transportation from there, the new system results in emission reductions of 2,400 tons of carbon dioxide per year—a clear example of how creative thinking and new transport routes can have a major impact on transportation emissions. Train transport, of course, generates significantly lower emissions compared to trucks, as most of the route is operated with electricity from renewable hydropower and nuclear.

Sweden’s airport authority, LFV, gave its 2009 Ecologistics Award to AFAB, Green Cargo and the Port of Gävle. And several European airports have expressed interest in the Arlanda model, which is relatively uncommon. Safety and environmental improvements make a strong case for rail as an alternative to truck transport.

Article published in June 2010