Why Snow Melting is becoming the accepted choice at airports.

Safety

During a snow operation, safety becomes an increased concern. Snow creates slippery conditions on the ramp, decreased visibility, and there are a lot of extra units of operating equipment including de-icing trucks, snow plows, and snow removal equipment which add to the congestion on the ramp.

When snow is removed via trucking there may be literally tens or hundreds of additional trucks on the ramp mostly operated by people who do not have familiarity with operating in a secure area, around both taxiing and parked aircraft. Having all this equipment on and traveling around the ramp areas creates a very real safety risk.

Melting snow on the ramp eliminates most of the traffic and extra equipment. A melter requires a payloader to put the snow into the melter and that is the full compliment of equipment. The excessive number of trucks and loaders required for physical snow removal are replaced by a small number of melters and loaders. With the proper selection of the piling site and the required number of melters and loaders, which may be isolated from the bulk of aircraft operations, safety risks can be greatly reduced.

Security

When one adds equipment operated by non-airline personnel to truck snow off the ramp area it is likely that not all the operators will have been subject to an FAA background check. Supervisors must escort the trucks and operators within the secure airport area. When the demand for productivity increases and the required number of trucks therefore increases, the security problems grow almost exponentially.

When the snow storage site is outside of the secure ramp area the trucks used to remove snow must constantly be entering and exiting the ramp through the security system for the airport. This extra volume of traffic entering a secure area also puts a strain on security. Security may in fact delay the trucking operation thereby requiring more trucks to assure a rapid snow removal operation. However, more trucks means more security risk. Melting provides a better alternative.

Melting may be done with a limited number of operators and pieces of equipment. The units generally are in the secure ramp area and confined to the piling site. The operators may be under constant supervisor surveillance and the security burden of the snow operation is a great deal less. By implementing a snow mleting operation security is significantly reduced as an issue and normal, approved escort procedures may be followed.

Ecology

The restrictions on snow disposal, especially from de-icing areas, are becoming greater and greater in and around airports. No longer are we permitted to dump snow in the near-by bay, river or creek. Dumping snow on land where the melting process may saturate the land and migrate down to the aquifer is also coming under increased scrutiny. The respect for our environment and minimizing pollution from the airport is an active DEC program.

Converting snow back into water and then being disposed of in the same drain as rain water is becoming the accepted practice for snow removal. Melters provide the best means for the transformation of snow back into water and have the added advantage of precipitating out sand, dirt, heavy metals, and large objects from the plowed snow. Melting is rapidly becoming the approved "best business practice" for airport snow removal.

Economics

Clearly, when one can spare the ramp space and not inhibit operations or compromise safety, piling snow and letting nature melt it is the least cost method to make snow disappear. Of course, at the major airports and especially at terminal locations ramp space is becoming more and more scarce and natural melting is not a practical option.

For many years trucking was the preferred option to remove snow and is still used at many airports. Trucking requires a nearby, approved dump site, sufficient trucks, loaders, bulldozers, and backhoes to have an efficient and productive operation on the ramp and at the dump site. The number of trucks, loaders, etc. is often dependent on the travel time to and from the dump site coupled with the desired speed of snow removal from the ramp. The economics of trucking will be influenced by the number of trucks and the labor conditions at each airport.

With the advent of high productivity melters (300 tph plus) the option of melting has become an economic and practical reality. Melting eliminates the double or triple handling of snow required with trucking and is often more productive than trucking. In addition, melting minimizes ramp congestion and solves many of the safety and security problems associated with trucking.

High productivity melters have proven to be cost competitive to trucking. Melters are loaded on a continuous basis and are not subject to the delays often associated with trucking including waiting for trucks to be positioned for loading or unloading, ramp traffic problems, or other common delays. Melting often proves to be economically advantageous to the alternative methods of physical snow removal.

 

The Expansion of Snow Melting for Municipal and Highway Needs

Having been proven at airports the Aero Snow Melters have been in demand from Cities, Highway Departments and Municipalities. When a blizzard in Chicago in January 1999 buried the streets and practically crippled the City, they called on Aero Snow Melters. The City piled snow in numerous strategic sites throughout the city and then used the Aero Melters to turn the snow back into water and be discharged into the storm drains. This unique approach helped to clean the streets faster and return the City operations to normal more rapidly than ever anticipated. The trucks hauling snow had shorter runs between collection and the dump site thereby removing the snow off the streets faster. The Aero Melters could be towed to each of the sites to melt the snow thereby eliminating the piles/mountains of snow and returning the storage sites to their normal daily use.

Many of the same benefits experienced at airports can be realized with municipal snow melting:

Safety

Snow on the streets, pushed to make burms on the curb is hazardous to both vehicle operation and to pedestrians. Until now the removal of snow has been either left to mother nature or required numerous trucks, payloaders and extra equipment on the streets. With the advent of melters designed for municipal use the amount of extra equipment on the roads can be reduced and the snow can be removed in a highly efficient manner.

 

Snow Melting, A Tutorial

Snow Melter Sizes

Aero rates melters based on the number of BTUs generated in one hour.

Traditionally snow melters have been rated by the theoretical tons of snow they can melt per hour. The calculation was based on the BTUs generated per hour, the physical properties of the snow (density, etc.), the water outflow (temperature, etc.), and the efficiency of the melter. BTUs are a measurable unit of heat and not dependent on the snow being melted. Hence, BTUs are the best way to compare snow melters.

For the purpose of rating it is a fact that it takes 17,200,000 BTUs to convert one hundred tons of snow into water.

Using this fact and knowing how many BTUs a melter can generate, one can easily compare melters and calculate the rated tons of snow which can be melted per hour by a specific melter (tons per hour or tph).

Required Capacity

The amount of snow melting capacity is dependent on the size of the area to be cleared and the time snow may be permitted to remain on the ramp.

The amount of snow on the ramp (sq. ft. of area multiplied by depth of snow) and the melting capacity (tons per hour) will determine how long the ramp will be encumbered. Melters collect ramp dirt and debris which needs to be cleaned periodically. The frequency of cleaning is dependent on the ramp conditions and will affect the productivity.

We estimate for a ramp area between 5 and 6 million square feet with an average depth of snow of 6 inches (6") that 1800 tph of snow melting capacity will provide for a clean ramp (all equipment parked) within eight hours of the last flake of snowfall if Aero is doing the pushing and piling or eight hours from the completion of pushing and piling if another service provider is pushing the snow.

 

Required Number of Melters

Based on an estimate of productivity similar to the one done above and taking into account the ramp layout and number of piling sites one may determine the required number of melters and their productivity or tph for his facility.

Different suppliers have different size/capacity melters to provide the appropriate and desired productivity.

For a given level of productivity larger melters may replace multiple smaller units with the attendant benefit of safety and operational management. For instance if one requires 1200 tph productivity Aero can supply 2 melters fed by 4 payloaders. Competitive units delivering the same productivity may require 12 melters and 12 payloaders.

Economics of Larger Versus Smaller Melters

Melters are generally priced on an hourly rate based on the rated tons of snow melted per hour. In other words, the cost to melt a pile of snow (i.e. 2400 tons) is the same whether you use one large melter or several small ones.

Larger melters are no more expensive to hire than small melters and in some cases may be more economical.

The reason larger melters may cost less is that smaller units require more payloaders, technicians, and support personnel. The smaller melters may take longer to complete the job due to the necessity to clean the melters and the time to re-start them.

Fewer, larger melters also have the advantage of improving safety and security by operating with the fewest number of units in a secure area.

Melter Types - Stationary or Mobile

Stationary melters are permanent installations on the ramp and currently may be purchased in units with a capacity of approximately 80 tons of snow melted per hour. These units are, in simple terms, holes in the ground into which the snow is pushed or loaded. Stationary melters are not moveable and the snow must be piled in the same location for every storm.

Mobile melters are fully self contained units which may be stored off the ramp until a snow event. The mobile melters are similar to trailers and may be easily moved by a tractor or prime mover. The mobile melter is an above ground unit with a melting vat, heat/BTU generator, fuel storage, and discharges the water into a storm drain. Aero mobile melters come in sizes from 150 tph to 600 tph, more than seven times the productivity of an in-ground unit. Mobile melters may be moved to the pile thereby permitting the snow pile or piles to be located at the optimum place on the ramp.

Aero Snow Removal has determined that mobile melters are the optimum design for airport operations.

Stationary Melter Benefits:

Water discharge remains underground. The water generated by the melter is discharged directly into the storm water system and is not on the ramp.

The unit is always on site. The melter is built at a specific location and is always on site. There is dedicated real estate for stationary- in-ground melters.

Mobile Melter Benefits:

Greater productivity. Mobile melters are now capable of melting up to 600 tons of snow per hour in a single unit more than seven times the productivity of the stationary units. If desired more mobile melters may be used on the ramp to increase productivity. In-ground melters require engineering and construction to increase productivity.

Greater safety. Mobile melters may be positioned to assure safe operation. Melters need to be loaded from the upwind side to provide the loader operator with the greatest visibility and safety during operation. In-ground melters must be loaded from one direction only and this is likely to compromise loading efficiency and safety.

Improved ramp operations. Snow piles may be located anywhere on the ramp to assure the least ramp congestion and interference. Stationary melters require the same piling site be used every time without regard to snow fall or operation considerations. We, at Aero, have learned that ramp operations often change (equipment changes, gates are out of service, etc.) and snow pile locations may need to be changed. Also in very large storms a number of smaller piles on the ramp may be preferred to one very large snow mountain. Mobile melters provide the flexibility to adjust the snow pile location and size.

Assurance of capacity and production. When a stationary melter stops working the repairs are often complicated and time consuming. The units are underground and access is difficult during a snow storm. Snow piles near an out-of-service in-ground unit have to be moved to another site for melting. Moving a large pile of snow is no easy task. Mobile melters are completely accessible to the technician for repair and periodic checking during operation. In addition, should a mobile melter become inoperable it is easily removed from the ramp and a replacement unit brought in by the service provider. Mobile melters move to the snow pile and production is virtually guaranteed.

Easier periodic servicing. All melters require periodic cleaning. As snow melts the dirt, wheel chocks, and debris collected in the pushing of snow is deposited in the melter vat and collects at the bottom of the melter. As the debris piles up the efficiency of the melter is affected. Mobile melters are easy to clean being above ground and having large clean-out doors. In-ground melters require special equipment to vacuum out the vats or significant and lengthy hand labor to clean.

Start/Re-start of melting is easier. Aero mobile melters have the ability to generate their own water, from snow, when they are started after cleaning or at the beginning of the operation. In-ground units must be filled with water prior to starting the melting process. Water fill-time is time consuming and further delays the melting process.

Real estate is not dedicated. Mobile melters may be stored off the ramp to assure optimum ramp utilization. The mobile melter takes ramp space only during a snow event and only during a melting operation. Stationary melters occupy ramp space year round.

Remote site melting. In the event the customer wishes to melt snow in other sites, parking lots, cargo areas, etc. a mobile melter may be moved to the location. Stationary melters are locked into position and offer no melting site flexibility.

 

Mobile Melter Benefits:

Greater productivity. Mobile melters are now capable of melting up to 600 tons of snow per hour in a single unit more than seven times the productivity of the stationary units. If desired more mobile melters may be used on the ramp to increase productivity. In-ground melters require engineering and construction to increase productivity.

 

Greater safety. Mobile melters maybe positioned to assure safe operation. Melters need to loaded from the upwind side to provide the loader operator with the greatest visibility and safety during operation. In-ground melters must be loaded from one direction only and this is likely to compromise loading efficiency and safety.

Improved ramp operations. Snow piles may be located anywhere on the ramp to assure the least ramp congestion and interference. Stationary melters require the same piling site be used every time without regard to snow fall or operation considerations. We, at Aero, have learned that ramp operations often change (equipment changes, gates are out of service, etc.) and snow pile locations may need to be changed. Also in very large storms a number of smaller piles on the ramp may be preferred to one very large snow mountain. Mobile melters provide the flexibility to adjust the snow pile location and size.

Assurance of capacity and production. When a stationary melter stops working the repairs are often complicated and time consuming. The units are underground and access is difficult during a snow storm. Snow piles near an out-of-service in-ground unit have to be moved to another site for melting. Moving a large pile of snow is no easy task. Mobile melters are completely accessible to the technician for repair and periodic checking during operation. In addition, should a mobile melter become inoperable it is easily removed from the ramp and a replacement unit brought in by the service provider. Mobile melters move to the snow pile and production is virtually guaranteed.

Easier periodic servicing. All melters require periodic cleaning. As snow melts the dirt, wheel chocks, and debris collected in the pushing of snow is deposited in the melter vat and collects at the bottom of the melter. As the debris piles up the efficiency of the melter is affected. Mobile melters are easy to clean being above ground and having large clean-out doors. In-ground melters require special equipment to vacuum out the vats or significant and lengthy hand labor to clean.

Start/Re-start of melting is easier. Aero mobile melters have the ability to generate their own water, from snow, when they are started after cleaning or at the beginning of the operation. In-ground units must be filled with water prior to starting the melting process. Water fill-time is time consuming and further delays the melting process.


Real estate is not dedicated. Mobile melters may be stored off the ramp to assure optimum ramp utilization. The mobile melter takes ramp space only during a snow event and only during a melting operation. Stationary melters occupy ramp space year round.

Remote site melting. In the event the customer wishes to melt snow in other sites, parking lots, cargo areas, etc. a mobile melter may be moved to the location. Stationary melters are locked into position and offer no melting site flexibility.