Willson travels to Manila to Provide Colorado State Support for Clean Air Project
In August mechanical engineering Professor Bryan Willson participated in a series of meetings in Manila hosted by the Partnership for Clean Air (PCA). PCA is an umbrella group that represents over 100 government agencies, development agencies and environmental groups seeking solutions for cleaner air in Manila. The purpose of the visit was to develop a project plan to reduce air pollution produced by millions of two-stroke cycle engines used for small vehicles throughout Asia.
Willson is the founder and research director of the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory (EECL) at Colorado State. The EECL has been conducting research on two-stroke cycle engines for the past 10 years. Their work involves developing small two-stroke engines used in weed-trimmers and snowmobiles and large industrial engines used by natural gas pipeline systems. A team of Colorado State students working at the EECL recently won national recognition for a two-stroke cycle snowmobile engine that reduced pollution by over 99 percent.
"I'm excited about the project that is developing," Willson said. "In Manila alone, there are upwards of 100,000 vehicles with two-stroke engines. These contribute the equivalent pollution of over five million modern automobiles."
There are currently 1.3 million registered two-stroke vehicles and 1-1.5 million unregistered two-strokes in the Philippines. Nearly 70 percent of these vehicles are used in tricycle service, continuously transporting people and parcels through the cities and villages. They produce the equivalent pollution of 100 million modern automobiles.
Harmful emissions are so concentrated in Manila that people wear masks and walk through the city with rags held to their noses and mouths to try to filter the pollution.
The Philippine government has responded to the high levels of air pollution by creating the Urban Air Quality Management Strategy for Metro Manila. This strategy recommends mitigating pollution from vehicles, improving fuel quality, introducing emissions technology, implementing a traffic management program, monitoring city air quality and running a public awareness campaign.
The PCA proposes improving emissions technology through a five-step vehicle implementation process. With proper funding for each step, the project will introduce direct-injection vehicles as an alternative to two-strokes.
"Part of their interest in doing this project is that it represents a rare opportunity for the Philippines to play a leadership role. It's actually a pretty good fit," Willson said. "Manila has a high concentration of two-strokes; Luzon is an island, so we wouldn't have to convert vehicles in a whole region to have an impact."
Manila has the resources to supply the project's program advocacy, potential funding and management, but may not be able to support the project technologically. The National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS) at the University of the Philippines, which will likely host the project's emissions studies, could benefit from Colorado State's technical expertise.
As the technology provider for the project, Colorado State could play a large leadership role in promoting safe air quality in Asia. If successful implementation of the engines occurs in Luzon, the project could be replicated in other countries affected by the "Asian Brown Cloud."
"The 'extended project' has greater potential to reduce global engine-related air pollution than any other project I can think of," Willson said. "The discussions to date have only focused on applications in the Philippines. If the project moves forward, I anticipate sharing a vision for a broader program that could be funded by development agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank or private donor agencies."
Willson is planning to return to Manila to evaluate candidates for emissions testing, participate in a proposed planning summit and support program planning and negotiation with donor agencies that have offered support for the project. The Asian Development Bank also has invited Willson to present the project concept at a December conference in Hong Kong on air quality problems in Asia.