Faster fueling that speeds up aircraft turn times is one of the selling points behind a CA$36 million ($27.million) investment in new cargo infrastructure at Edmonton International Airport that is being shared by the Government of Canada.
The expansion project is designed to accommodate growth in air shipments and support exports, a key government priority. Cargo operations have grown significantly during the past five years and were up 7.5% in 2020 to 101.4 million pounds despite a significant drop in passenger flights and the belly cargo they carry. From 2014 to 2018, EIA recorded a 25-times increase in international overseas exports from its facilities. Last month, the Ministry of Transport announced it would provide matching funds for the upgrades under a grant program that prioritizes infrastructure that can enhance the movement of cross-border trade.
The new hydrant system will tie into Shell Aviation’s new fuel farm, eliminating the need for tanker trucks to ferry fuel half a kilometer to the apron. Large jet aircraft can require 10 to 15 separate truckloads of jet fuel to fill their tanks. Trucks have to wait their turn, hook up multiple times and make sure they are grounded to prevent dangerous sparks. The new mobile pump will be permanently located by the cargo parking area and only require one quick hook up to the aircraft’s fuel port.
It’s much more efficient for the planes to fuel, more efficient for the fueling company and better for the environment,” Myron Keehn, Edmonton Airport’s vice president of air service and business development, said in an interview. “It speeds up the refueling so those cargo planes can get back up into the air.”
And the quicker planes get in the air, the less space the airport needs to build for more aircraft on the ground, he added.
The fuel system may optimize space usage, but the airport authority is still adding two additional widebody aircraft parking positions, including a connection to the runway. When completed, there will be parking for six cargo aircraft at the same time.
The third piece of the project is construction of an additional 15,000-square feet of cold storage space for temperature-sensitive and perishable products, which will nearly triple the size of its Fresh Cargo Center. Edmonton has many bio-pharmaceutical companies and medical research centers, and the airport is one of only three in North America that has been certified by the International Air Transport Association for excellence in handling pharmaceutical products.
Edmonton is a major intermodal freight gateway due to its geographic location and logistics capabilities, as well as Canada’s breadbasket. Shipments enter the region every day,get consolidated and deconsolidated, and put on a different mode of transport. The airport is the closest point between Asia and northeast locations in the U.S., and has four refineries within 20 miles, making it a good spot for refueling and transloading cargo. Edmonton is the first major connection point for inland trains with containers that entered at the ports of Prince Rupert and Vancouver bound for eastern Canada or U.S. destinations like Chicago. And because Edmonton is situated on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains trucks can reach Toronto in 24 hours.
Many foreign companies are setting up operations in the area for those, and other, reasons.
“The growth in e-commerce is going to open up opportunities [and] drive more additional air cargo,” Keehn said. “We’re looking at the airport as part of a multi-modal hub.”
The airport said design work for the project is now underway with construction to start in late 2021, as weather allows, and last for two years.