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Washington State Ferries:
Washington State Ferries Confirm Slowing Down Will Save a Lot of Fuel

 

Thousands of gallons of diesel fuel can be saved by slowing Bainbridge Island-Seattle ferries by a couple of knots in offpeak runs, state officials say — and they’re going for it. A four-week fuel conservation study confirmed that at least a million gallons of fuel can be saved annually, about 90,000 gallons a month, on the state’s most heavily traveled ferry route.

The ferry system now uses about 18 million gallons of fuel a year at about 70 cents a gallon (2002 price) for its 29 vessels. (FloScan) fuel monitors that were installed in April on the 218-car Wenatchee indicated a slowdown from 18 knots to 16 knots would save about 1,500 gallons a day for each of the two boats on the run while adding two minutes to the 35-minute crossing.

The decision to proceed with the slowdown brought mixed responses. “It’s been my experience that the ferries are five to seven minutes late consistently,” said Joan Pearson, who often uses the Bainbridge-Seattle ferry. “The additional time would be more problematic to people where minutes count.”

The study may extend to other routes. “We just want to generate numbers and see what they look like,” said Mark Nitchman, the ferry system’s maintenance director. “Our efforts are focused on conservation, but we want to make sure that the public is not inconvenienced.”

Eventually, officials want to switch from off-road diesel fuel to low-sulfur fuel, a more expensive but cleaner alternative. Since January the 160-car Elwha has been running on low-sulfur diesel fuel on the San Juan Islands route. If there’s no engine damage as a result, the rest of the boats on the route will be converted after the summer. Biodiesel, a vegetable-based fuel that costs twice as much as regular diesel, is “probably our ultimate fuel,” Nitchman said.

Copyright © 2002 The Seattle Times Company

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Washington State Ferry

Washington State Ferry

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