We reported on the green gas station in the UAE last week. Featuring solar-powered lights, a waterless car wash system, eco-friendly products, and the vapor recovery system, a new technology that reduces carbon emission and fuel wastage.
It does sound like an environmental oxymoron: an ‘eco-friendly’ petrol station? But officials at the Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC) last week showcased its first green station, with environmental upgrades worth about Dh3.6 million. ENOC has an aim to reduce the ecological footprint of the station’s consumers, so they are literally pumping eco-sensibility.
The World’s First Green Petrol Station
The new station is located in The Meadows, part of Dubai’s Emirates Living residential area, and is fitted with noise reduction barriers and a system that collects the harmful vapours released from fuels, as well as solar lights, water recycling and other “green” features. ENOC’s ‘green’ station is the first of its kind in the region to generate half of its energy requirements from renewable sources.
The world’s first ‘green’ gas station, BP’s Helios House in Los Angeles, was built with cutting-edge earth-friendly design, using such materials as farmed wood and less-polluting paint, a rooftop made of 90 solar panels and a rainfall collection system used to irrigate plants nearby. From recycled-glass floors to a living cacti roof, Helios House has been the inspiration behind the Middle East’s first ‘green’ filling station, having received approval from the USGBC: LEED certification system (LEED).
According to ENOC’s Chief Executive Officer, Saeed Abdullah Khoory, the ‘green’ station is one in a series of eco-friendly initiatives the oil company has been supporting for a greener future in the Middle Eastern region. “With the opening of the station, we are setting a trend not only in the UAE but across the Middle East. We are encouraging Dubai residents to reduce their environmental footprints by using the green services we provide,” he said.
“There is a mindset that oil companies are polluting companies and are not responsible,” said Zaid al Qufaidi, the head of the retail business stream of ENOC/EPPCO. He said he hoped once motorists became aware of the technologies on the site, such perceptions would change for the better.
“As a company with over 30 subsidiaries and more than 6,000 employees, we believe our actions have a direct impact on the community and the environment,” said Saeed Abdullah Khoory.
However, one major setback is the financial cost. While it costs about Dh18 million to build a station of this size, the clean technology investment comes with a 20 percent increase.
The Science Bit ‘Where Bad Fumes Turn Good’
As a car is refuelled, vapours in the fuel tank escape into the atmosphere. These vapours contain toxic volatile compounds that are harmful to people and the environment.
On calm, sunny days, these compounds react with other pollutants to form smog, known to scientists as ground-level ozone.
Repeated exposure to smog can increase the risk of respiratory infections in healthy people as well as aggravate pre-existing conditions like asthma.
Ground-level ozone also has strong global-warming potential.
According to researchers, about 0.5 percent of pumped fuel evaporates at a temperature of 40°Celsius.
The green filling station takes these vapours back, saving about 99 percent of these emissions. Once it is collected, the vapour goes into a central underground tank, where it is put under intense pressure and liquefied into fuel again.
The Green Bit
The petrol station serves 550 customers and uses an average of 65,000 litres of fuel a day. The renewable system has been under testing for two months at The Meadows petrol station and has already saved 22,000 litres of fuel.
The station is the first in the Gulf to have noise reduction barriers, a feature of particular importance considering its location in a residential area.
The petrol station also has a system that recycles water from its car wash, dubbing it a ‘waterless’ system that is more efficient than traditional car wash facilities. As vehicles are washed, the water – rather than going in the sewage network – is collected in an underground tank and purified so it can be used again.
To increase energy savings, the station uses light emitting diodes (LED), which are several times more efficient and last longer than traditional lights. Finally, outdoor lights and signs are powered by solar panels. Solar panels have increased usage throughout the Sahara Desert, and Middle East these past 5 years.
More Green features
- The ENOC petrol station uses 30 green tactics, including:
- A vapour cepollection system to trap toxic fumes that escape when fuel is loaded into the station’s main storage tanks, or into the fuel tanks of individual cars.
- Sound reduction barriers to prevent noise pollution in the surrounding residential area.
- A water recycling system at the car wash that allows waste water to be re-used.
- Solar-powered lights and signage to reduce energy usage.
- LED lights to reduce energy usage.
- Recycling bins for residents.
- Part of ENOC’s plans include manufacturing furniture made from recycled materials.
Despite all of these state-of-the-art ‘Green” technologies, the irony is obvious. The station attendants are armed with green-living brochures in one hand and gas pumps in the other. Critics say the green gas station is “like a vegetarian who eats fish”, – Grishaber.
However, this green station is as close to ‘environmentally friendly’ as an oil company can get in the UAE. Considering the limitations of technology, dependency on fossil fuels and the desert climate, ENOC’s effort at creating sustainable eco-friendly practices for an unsustainable resource like petrol is a positive, albeit tiny, step in the green direction.