Ford's AutoAlliance International Assembly Plant Wins Environmental Leadership Award


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On Friday, Jan. 27, the Ford's AutoAlliance International Assembly Plant (AAI) in Flat Rock, Mich., was awarded the 2011 Environmental Leadership Award for its innovative process where paint booth solids – a material typically sent to landfill – are sent to the plant's energy supplier and used as a raw material to generate electricity.

The Environmental Leadership Award promotes ground-breaking ideas that benefit the environment and support Ford’s sustainability efforts. The award acknowledges the environmental and financial impact of innovative projects and their potential for replication.

AAI was chosen from a total of 11 North American facilities which submitted applications for the award. AAI was announced as the 2011 ELA recipient at the Environmental Quality Office's annual Compliance Workshop in November 2011.   The runner-up for the award was the Ohio Assembly Plant for its Earth Day Poster Contest with neighboring elementary school students emphasizing recycling efforts and resource conservation.

The AAI partnered with DTE Energy, AAI's energy provider, and Abednego Environmental Services, AAI's paint booth management supplier, to develop a process to recover energy from Recovered Paint Solids (RPS). When a vehicle is painted, not all the paint ends up on the vehicle. Ford's painting processes utilize a water wash scrubber system to capture and collect the oversprayed paint solids so they are not released into the environment. In the past, the recovered paint solids were sent to a landfill. The team at AAI developed a process to recover the energy from the paint booth overspray while avoiding landfill.

The recovered solids are dewatered on the AAI site to increase their BTU (energy) value before being shipped to DTE's power generation plant in River Rouge, Mich. At the power plant the RPS are blended and processed as fuel, supplementing the traditional coal fuel, to generate electricity.

"I am very pleased that the process developed by the AAI team does not create any significant burden at the plant, but has incredible benefits," said Tim Young, AAI plant manager. "The project eliminates landfill of the paint solids and provides DTE with an alternative energy source."

The environmental impact of this creative program not only includes a reduction in waste sent to landfill, but also provides a source of fuel to generate electricity. Approximately 163 tons of recovered paint solids were shipped from AAI as a fuel source since early 2010. An estimated 163,000 kwh of energy, enough energy to power 20 residential homes for a year, were produced as a direct result of this program.

Working with DTE and Abednego, the paint solids energy recovery program has been successfully replicated at the Chicago Assembly Plant and the Michigan Assembly Plant where approximately 174 tons of paint solids were eliminated from landfill and processed as a fuel source in 2011. Plans are in place to launch the innovative process at the Dearborn Truck Plant and Louisville Assembly Plant in 2012.

"I was very impressed with the business approach the AAI team used. The team worked together to determine a beneficial use for a typical waste at an assembly plant. The project provides good sustainability with a payback.  This program is truly a partnership with our suppliers, DTE and Abednego, and is a project which can be replicated globally" said Andy Hobbs, director, Ford Environmental Quality Office.  "The AAI project is an excellent example of what can be accomplished by an innovative and motivated team."

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