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Hong Kong’s hybrid electric buses found to use more fuel than normal ones

‘The numbers don’t look satisfactory,’ says environment official

Hybrid electric double-decker buses actually guzzle more fuel than conventional buses because of Hong Kong’s hilly roads and hot weather, according to preliminary results from an ongoing trial.

Environmental Protection Department officials admitted the six hybrid buses, trialled over a year, were “not as efficient as they thought”. They pointed to heavy use of air conditioning systems, which accounted for up to 40 per cent of the energy used in the summer.

Although fuel performance was better in winter, the buses still used 3.4 per cent more fuel on average than regular buses.

“The numbers don’t look satisfactory right now,” assistant director for air policy Mok Wai-chuen told the legislature’s environmental affairs panel on Wednesday.

“Because buses in Hong Kong use a lot of energy in air conditioning, the benefits of the hybrid mode are not maximised. We are allowing [the manufacturer] time to improve designs … and will come back to report on this later.”

The government spent HK$33 million helping the three franchised bus companies acquire the six hybrids in a bid to explore less polluting vehicle options. The two-year trial began in November 2014.

Lawmaker Tony Tse Wai-chuen questioned why none of the obvious issues were identified before the start of the trial and feared the experiment would end up being “futile”.

Separately, the department announced the start of its latest review of the city’s air quality objectives. These objectives were last tweaked in 2014.

It set up a working group to conduct the review and look into control measures “for other lesser air pollution sources” such as aviation emissions and volatile organic compounds, a major component of ozone.

The latest official data shows ambient concentrations of PM10, PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide dropping 21, 24, 13 and 31 per cent respectively from 2011 to 2015.

Roadside concentrations fell 26, 21, 19 and 33 per cent in the same period respectively. But harmful ozone pollution at both general and roadside stations is still on the rise.

The Clean Air Network urged the government to set the new objectives according to the World Health Organisation’s most stringent air quality guidelines, as several of the current objectives only met its interim targets, which it said did not provide adequate protection to public health.
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CTA Letter to EPD on Landfill Gas Levels in Hong Kong

From: EPD
Sent: 26 February, 2016
Subject: Query on current levels of Landfill Gas in Hong Kong

Dear Mr. Middleton,

Thank you again for your email dated 12 Jan 2016 regarding the use of LFG.

You may well understand that LFG is generated as a result of physical, chemical and microbial processes that undergo within the waste cells of the landfill. The processes and hence the generation rate would vary from time to time according to different waste intake history, environmental conditions (e.g. temperature, extent of leachate circulation), and configurations of the landfill site (e.g. landfill depth and thickness of cover material), etc. It is noted that the LFG generation at local landfills has been relatively steady over the past few years. In any case, we have been closely monitoring the management of the landfills to ensure landfill operations are in accordance with stringent environmental standards.

As you have already noted that it is a government policy to encourage utilization of LFG recovered from the landfill sites. Apart from on-site utilization at all three strategic landfills, there have been arrangements for off-site utilization at NENT and SENT landfills. In order to make best use of the LFG recovered, EPD has been working closely with the landfill contractor of WENT Landfill in exploring and identifying various practicable beneficial use of surplus LFG recovered at the landfill site. As part of our on-going effort, we have taken the liberty to pass on the information of overseas experience in your email to the contractor for reference/consideration.

May I thank you again for your interest in the Hong Kong environment, which is very much appreciated and important for the continual enhancement of our local environment.

H. S. Chan
for the Director of Environmental Protection Department


From: CTA
Sent: 12th January, 2016
Subject: Query on current levels of Landfill Gas in Hong Kong

Dear Gary

Thanks for your reply

In 2008 the LFG at the 3 sites collected was as follows: 26,600 m3 per hour

Obviously as the landfills get older and larger the LFG would normally increase but I note that the 2014 rate is 12.400/6,450/7,185 = 26,035 m3 per hour
which is lower than 2008, of which you state approx 80% (20,828 m3 per hour) would be beneficially used and the remainder (5,200 m3 per hour/ 124,800 m3 per day / 45,552,000 m3 per year)
is flared off.

That seems an awful lot of wasted methane and relevant pollution caused by the flaring. I understand methane is 21 times more damaging to the environment than CO2 but surely some better use
could be made of the gas ?

For example I note that companies like SITA promote liquid biomethane from landfill gas in UK and Europe – why not here too ?

Kind regards,
James Middleton


CTA Letter to Legco on Hong Kong Waste Management

Download (PDF, 632KB)

45,552,000 cubic meters of landfill gas is currently flared off per year from the 3 HKG open landfill sites

Download (PDF, 356KB)

SCMP: Hong Kong plans to get mainland electricity without counting cost in carbon emissions

by Cheung Chi-fai and Ernest Kao of the SCMP:

As the city ponders drawing a third of its electricity from the mainland power grid, it also plans to disassociate itself from the resulting carbon emissions, environmental authorities say.

Carbon emissions related to the imported electricity would be left out of the city’s emissions count, the Environmental Protection Department said yesterday. It is unclear if that is common practice when transferring energy across borders.

The shift of responsibility should help the city achieve runaway success in its carbon reduction targets, set at 50 to 60 per cent below the 2005 emissions level. Frances Yeung Hoi-shan, from Friends of the Earth, said environmental officials were “playing tricks” in seeking to meet the targets.

Dr Luk Bing-lam, chairman of the Nuclear Society and a member of the Environment Bureau’s energy advisory committee, added: “This is self-defeating. The whole thing is about reducing emissions, but it turns out that the emissions will be ‘shifted’ to the mainland.”

All the electricity the city now gets from across the border is nuclear energy.

Under fuel-mix proposals for 2023, mainland company China Southern Power Grid may export up to 15 billion kilowatt-hours a year to Hong Kong – an option that Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing has claimed can help the city outperform its targets.

That same amount of energy can be generated locally by coal- or gas-fired plants, but Wong said the city would then be able to meet only basic benchmarks.

The fuel mix of China Southern is one-third hydro power, 6 per cent nuclear energy and more than 60 per cent coal and natural gas.

Clean Air Network chief executive Kwong Sum-yin said sourcing more energy from the firm’s Guangdong plant was not necessarily a greener way, as more than half of its supply came from coal. Kwong feared greater energy demands imposed on the province would in turn spawn more coal-fired plants.

Luk urged the government to clarify why it believed nuclear energy was a costly option.

World Green Organisation chief executive Dr William Yu Yuen-ping said that if the city decided to obtain electricity substantially from the mainland, it should pay attention to storing enough back-up power in case the supply was disrupted.

20 Mar 2014

SCMP Letters: HK biofuels company makes case for biofuels advantage

Anthony Dixon, CEO of ASB Biodiesel, writes in to SCMP to counter the lack of consideration given to biodiesel by Hong Kong official officials:

There are some encouraging signs that the government is beginning to recognise our local waste-to-biodiesel industry as an excellent already-working model of what it hopes to achieve more broadly for recycling and food waste in Hong Kong.

But I must disagree with the Environmental Protection Department’s ongoing assertion that the introduction of biodiesel will have little impact on roadside emissions (“Biodiesel maker pushes product use in market”, October 28). Surely, given the World Health Organisation’s recent pronouncement that air pollution is a leading cause of cancer, no government can afford to ignore any positive incremental impact.


Government to take new look at fuel-mix

RTHK – 20th March 2011

The Under-Secretary for the Environment, Kitty Poon, says the government will take a fresh look at plans for Hong Kong’s future fuel-mix in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. Speaking at RTHK’s City Forum, Dr Poon said the territory’s energy supply must be safe, stable, economical, and environmentally-friendly. Last year, the government said it wanted nuclear power to account for 50 percent of Hong Kong’s fuel-mix by 2020 – compared to 23 percent now.

Environment questions for Undersecretary of the ENB remain uinanswered

3d human with a red question markClear the Air says:

This week we had the dust cloud from China sending our already high pollution levels off the scale.

An EPD spokesman on 22nd March stated that they had instructed the power companies to burn gas to try and alleviate the air quality. The statement was made by Mr Mok Wai Chuen, Assistant Director of Environmental Protection.

On 23rd March 2010 Mr James Middleton from Clear the Air’s Energy Committee called the Backchat program and asked why, if the EPD can direct CLP and HKEH to use gas this week, could the EPD not dictate to the power companies to use gas all the time instead of polluting coal. ‘Well, we do not have enough gas’ was Mr Mok’s reply.

Listen to the program here:

Look at our (unanswered) query to EPD below in October 2008.

From: James Middleton []
Sent: Tuesday, October 21, 2008 10:08 AM
To: ‘'; ‘’
Cc: ‘'; ‘'; ‘Mark Hunter'; ‘’
Subject: Environment questions for Undersecretary of the ENB

Dr. POON Kit, Kitty, JP

Under Secy for the Env

2594 6703

Dear Ms Poon

It seems your predecessors did little for HKG’s environment.

We agree we need to burn more gas. The numbers below showing CLP’s decline in gas use from 1999 are horrendous as is the massive increase in coal use.

So Ms Poon, where will the gas come from ? We need 6 billion m3 to produce 50% of what is now generated. More would be better so the additional product could be sold to Guangdong power net to reduce the use of high sulphur backup generators used over the border. Having an MOU is great ; we believe CLP is currently negotiating to take 80% of Daya Bay output instead of 70% but the gas supply will leave a void until the proposed pipeline supply and LNG terminal appear. That means more coal.

Please see our queries below that unfortunately were not read out today on Backchat.

We totally agree with Professor Hedley’s letter below. To use the recommended WHO non developed entry levels adopted in the Democratic Republic of Congo are hardly appropriate for Hong Kong and a sham. It should not even be considered as a starting level.

If this morning’s program had run for 3 hours we would have still been out of time as the emotive statements showed clearly that the people have had enough and Government should act now, not have a consultation as to whether another consultation on the proposed consultation is required.

People want action not words and a non N-A-T-O administration – No Action Talk Only.

Our major environment problem is summed up simply –

– locally burning coal with the ESP in the stacks incapable of catching the PM2.5 emissions unless they fit agglomerators – for the price of 17 days’ coal CLP could add a further 15 agglomerators at Castle Peak and catch the PM2.5. HK Electric is even dirtier than CLP.  Simply – enact a new PM2.5 AQO to at least USA standard if WHO standard is deemed currently beyond reach for whatever reason.  Once you make the AQO standard the power companies will comply. The technology is there. Only now are our local  power companies fitting FGD and NOx burners to meet the 2010 standards.

– local inefficient old diesels – well taxation should get the message across that they need to scrap these vehicle and replace them with at least Euro 4 machines.

Yes we can say we get pollution blown in from PRD for half the year but a vast amount of pollution is created locally and the cure is available.


James Middleton

The Port of Hong Kong – download the full report here.

Case Study: Hong Kong

The Port of Hong Kong has been a leading Asian seaport for more than a century and a top container port for more than three decades. Between 2001 and 2006, Hong Kong container throughput increased by 32 percent from 17.8 million to 23.5 million TEUs. Containerized cargo in Hong Kong now represents about 74 percent of Hong Kong’s total cargo throughput. In 2006, Hong Kong was the second largest container port in the world, although it is likely that it was surpassed by Shanghai in 2008. The port is served by 80 international shipping lines with over 450 container liner services per week to over 500 destinations worldwide. The port is managed by the Marine Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), the local government for the city.

Hong Kong is located in the Pearl River Delta, which includes other cities and container ports, including the Port of Shenzhen, the world’s fourth largest container port. Container traffic at Shenzhen has also steadily risen recently, to 18.5 million TEUs in 2006 compared with 5.0 million TEUs in 2001. Together, in 2006, the Hong Kong and Shenzhen ports accounted for 9.5 percent of global container volume, making the Pearl River Delta the largest container handling region in the world. Cargo throughput is expected to grow. A study commissioned by the Hong Kong Transport and Housing Bureau estimates that, by 2030, Hong Kong will handle between 39 and 43 million TEUs.

Air quality in the Hong Kong is generally poor and levels remain much higher than the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines. Since 1990, emissions of all air pollutants have risen dramatically.

Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides doubled and particulate matter showed over a 90 percent gain. In 2006, Civic Exchange, a nonprofit public policy research organization based in Hong Kong, published a report, Marine Emission Reduction Options for Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta Region, which found that local vehicle and marine emissions are the dominant source of air pollution in Hong Kong during prevailing wind conditions that exist about one-third of the year.

Governments and other stakeholders in the maritime sector have already implemented some positive measures including the promotion of low sulfur fuel use by marine vessels and port vehicles, the use of electricity to power port machinery and the reduction of fuel consumption through efficiency measures. These measures in themselves have not been sufficient to reduce port emissions on a scale necessary to protect public health, but pressure to take more ambitious action is growing.

In February and March 2008, Civic Exchange sponsored two workshops for stakeholders involved in port environmental issues. The working group for the workshop included four stakeholder groups: oceangoing vessel operators, port operators, local craft harbor operators and land vessel operators involved in port activities. The stakeholder groups all endorsed government incentives to encourage green technologies and to pay the incremental cost of ultra low sulfur diesel fuel compared to lower grade conventional fuels. They also supported increased research and development of advanced technologies for marine applications, pursuit of shore power use by berthed ships and the creation of a low emission area subject to IMO regulations.

The recommendations of the working group were used by Civic Exchange in the development of its July 2008 report, Green Harbours: Hong and Shenzhen — Reducing Marine and Port Related Pollution. The report’s five key recommendations are as follows:

• In the short term: Foster greater regional collaboration across borders, port and marine sectors
• In the medium term: Develop a comprehensive green ports strategy and related policy measures to create the regulatory and planning framework for implementing green port policies
• Develop cleaner fuels initiatives to encourage the use and availability of cleaner fuels
• Expand training programs for industry employees to encourage proper equipment operation to ensure efficient operation
• Conduct additional port related research to identify new green port projects suitable for Hong Kong

Hong Kong is responding to the increased recognition of the role of port activities in the city’s environmental problems. In June 2008, Hong Kong ratified the MARPOL Annex VI marine fuel quality standards as a Special Administrative Region of China recognized at the IMO separately from the national government in Beijing, which had already ratified the agreement. It plans to go beyond the new IMO regulations by applying fuel quality standards to local shipping as well as international commerce
regulated by the IMO.

Emissions from ships in Hong Kong harbor are regulated by the Marine Department. Ships in the harbor now use 5,000 ppm sulfur fuel. The ferry system will start running a trial using 50 ppm sulfur fuel early next year. Assuming the results are positive, political leaders seem committed to continue its use in ferries, but not to expand it to other craft without the cooperation of other cities in the Pearl River Delta mooring local marine craft.

The Hong Kong Shipowners Association (HKSOA) was very active during the few years of debate before the MARPOL Annex VI Amendments were adopted in October 2008, says Arthur Bowring, Managing Director of the group. The HKSOA represents more than 100 shipping companies that own more than 1,100 ships. “Environment is our biggest single challenge,” adds Bowring, referring to shipowners.

The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) is the chief air pollution regulatory agency in Hong Kong for landside emission sources, including all types of motorized vehicles. “Marine emissions are a new issue for us,” notes W.C. Mok, Principal Environmental Protection Officer.206 There are currently no regulatory standards that apply to offroad cargo handling equipment at ports. Onroad trucks fueling in Hong Kong are required to buy diesel fuel containing only 10 ppm sulfur, but when refueling takes place across the border with mainland China, they are subject only to a 500 ppm sulfur cap. Since most trucks delivering containers to Hong Kong pick up their cargo at mainland factories, most diesel fuel burned in Hong Kong is the higher sulfur content grade.

The 10 ppm fuel is much more expensive, even with an exemption from sales taxes offered by Hong Kong. The EPD is currently studying the technical feasibility of using compressed or liquefied natural gas in heavy duty vehicles. It will examine the results in 2009. The EPD is also studying options to reduce air pollution from cargo handling equipment at container ports.

As government agencies assess regulatory options, several private container terminal operators are moving ahead to deploy hybrid electric rubber tire gantries (RTGs). Seventeen hybrid electric RTGs were deployed at Container Terminal 4 owned by Hong Kong International Terminals (HIT) in 2008. They are the first step in a $18 million (U.S. dollars) program to equip 81 RTGs with hybrid electric drivetrains, about 70 percent of HITs total fleet. The hybrid RTGs are fitted with lithium ion batteries that provide power to help lift containers. The batteries are recharged by regenerative braking energy generated during the lowering of containers and from a generator powered by the onboard diesel engine.

In October 2008, Modern Terminals Ltd. signed a contract with Kawatoyo Electric Company Ltd., the sole agent for Yaskawa Group Port Crane System, to convert 44 RTGs with hybrid electric drivetrains at its terminal in Hong Kong by mid-2009. The drivetrains are being developed by Yaskawa Electric Corporation. They use ultracapacitors as the onboard energy storage technology.

The Modern Terminals Da Chen Bay Terminal 1 at Shenzhen already uses hybrid electric RTGs. The terminal is the first to convert its entire RTG fleet to hybrid electric drivetrains. Modern Terminals associate company, Taicang International Container Terminal, is currently converting its fleet at the Port of Shanghai to hybrid electric RTGs.

In other programs at Shenzhen, Shekou Container Terminal (SCT) is installing auxiliary generators onboard its entire fleet of 78 RTGs by the end of 2010 at the port of Shekou. It is also installing rail mounted gantry cranes (RMGs), which are quieter, last longer, and are 20 percent more efficient than conventional RTGs. By the end of 2008, SCT plans to install 16 RMGs. Another initiative is studying the use of using hybrid technology or LNG yard tractors.

Yantian International Container Terminals (YICT) is the largest port in Shenzhen, handling 10 million TEUs in 2007. YICT has converted 12 of its 200 RTGs from conventional to hybrid electric drivetrains, and plans to switch another 60. The RTGs are equipped with supercapacitors, which are yielding a 25 percent energy savings by capturing and reusing energy released as containers are lowered to the ground. Anticipating shoreside power, YICT has started installing infrastructure works and is studying power converter technology before implementing this new technology. It is also promoting rail transportation from the port on its dedicated rail line. Each train can transport 50 containers in one journey, making them more efficient and cleaner than trucks.

Drive To Get Fuel-Efficient Diesel Cars Back On Roads

Motor traders in global hunt for model to match standards

Anita Lam and Cheung Chi-fai – SCMP – Updated on Feb 23, 2009

Diesel-driven cars may soon return to the streets of Hong Kong – and in a much cleaner and environment-friendly form, after being phased out in favour of petrol engines over a decade ago, motor traders say.

They have started a global hunt for the right diesel model after the environmental watchdog introduced what they called an “improved flexibility in vehicle emissions standards” last month.

The new standard has led to some enthusiasm among the traders badly hit by the economic downturn as they expect diesel vehicles to be popular among cost-conscious drivers who will benefit from diesel prices lower than petrol.

The traders said diesel engines were also a third more fuel-efficient than petrol ones, emitted less carbon dioxide, were more durable and could generate greater power.

The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) recently rejected suggestions from the Hong Kong Motor Traders Association that Euro V emissions standards be adopted for diesel cars to facilitate imports, as diesel standards still lagged behind those for petrol cars.

But the department has since dropped its insistence that imported diesel cars meet the latest Californian standards and associated testing procedures – adopted in Hong Kong in 2006 – which motor traders have said were “virtually unattainable”.

And it has said it is also prepared to accept diesel cars which meet or surpass Euro V emissions standards for petrol cars. The same applies to diesel cars which meet the Japanese emissions standard for 2009.

The department has become more flexible in its requirements because the Euro V petrol car standards, with tightened curbs on nitrogen oxide emissions and new limits on particulate matter, have become broadly equivalent to Californian standards.

“It is still a very difficult task for us to find a diesel car that matches the standard of a petrol car, but there is a chance now at least that we can find something as we are now talking about configurations of European and Japanese vehicles, not the American ones which are totally different from ours,” Michael Lee, chairman of the Hong Kong Motor Traders Association, said.

Diesel engines have in the past been unwelcome because of their pollution potential – smoky emissions with high levels of particulate matter known as a major health risk.

Diesel engines also generated high levels of smog-inducing nitrogen oxides.

To discourage their use, the government adopted the most stringent Californian standards from 1998 and now imposes vehicle licence fees on diesel vehicles up to 37 per cent higher than on petrol ones.

But Hong Kong Automobile Association vice-president James Kong Yat-hung said the lower running cost of diesel cars would be attractive as the economy worsened. “It’s not only that diesel is cheaper than petrol, but diesel engines are also about 30 per cent more energy-efficient and durable than petrol engines,” he said.

Diesel fuel costs HK$8.07 a litre, which is 38 per cent cheaper than petrol. Since late 2007, the government has also cut tax on diesel by half to 56 cents a litre.

The EPD has said it would consider offering a tax concession on clean-running diesel cars – similar to that now offered to high-achieving petrol cars for outstanding environmental performance.

The petrol-car concession is a 30 per cent cut in first-registration tax, or up to HK$50,000, if the vehicle emits half the emissions allowed under Euro IV standards and is 40 per cent more fuel-efficient than other cars of the same weight.