Uncle Sam Pays Grace Pacific $230,000 to Refresh its Fleet

Sept. 28, 2010
By hiring consultants to write its proposals, contractor Grace Pacific Corp. has netted two diesel-emissions grants worth $230,000 even though the air quality in its Hawaiian home market attains EPA standards. The first grant, awarded in 2005, was for $135,000. The money supported repowering two Caterpillar 773B rock trucks and a Cat 992D wheel loader. “The 773s went from nontier engines to Tier 2, and the 992 could only go up to Tier 1 – that’s all that was available for that size equipment at the time,” says Joseph Shacat, environmental compliance manager with the Honolulu-based highway and heavy construction company. “I think that was first EPA grant that was awarded to refit a piece of equipment with a new engine.” The project proposal also included repowering two 725-kilowatt generators that Grace Pacific uses to power asphalt plants. After the grant was warded, though, Grace managers decided the company could save even more by investing more in the generators. “We were supposed to pull the old diesel engine and replace it with a new one of these 1,000-plus horsepower engines, and keep the gen set,” says Shacat. “But as we started looking more closely at the cost of that, we discovered that for not a whole lot more money, we could just replace the whole generator.” The more efficient generator would repay Grace Pacific’s additional investment quickly in fuel savings. Total project cost was about $700,000. “Before we did the repowers of those two rock trucks, they couldn't keep up with the rest of the trucks in the quarry,” says Shacat. “After the repower – they got slightly more powerful engines put in them – they keep up just fine but they’re not burning any more fuel. It's increased the quarry’s productivity – they can move more rock with the same resources.” Grace Pacific aggressively pursued a second diesel emissions grant – a specialized program intended to support the placement of diesel particulate filters and diesel oxidation catalysts. “We were the only company to actually submitted an application for that grant, and it was a pretty good-sized flow of money -- $800,000,” Shacat says. “But the EPA region wasn’t comfortable signing off on giving the entire pool of money to a single private entity, so we brought in about five partners: the Hawaii Department of Transportation, the City and County of Honolulu, the board of water supply and a number of private trucking companies.” The broad partnership was successful, and a $95,000 grant was awarded in 2007. “We retrofit almost our entire haul fleet – all of our tractor trailers and super dumps, basically every piece of equipment in the haul fleet that was eligible, which was probably 80 percent of our big rigs for hauling aggregate,” says Shacat. “We also dealt with a lot of quarry equipment that wasn't involved with the first grant. “Instead of repowering the engines we added on DOCs, diesel oxidation catalysts,” Shacat explains. “The DOC just looks like a muffler. When you fire up the engine, you get a little bit of gray smoke. Not black smoke. “Even though the DOC is only doing 25 or 30 percent emissions reduction, it still makes a pretty significant difference in what you see coming out of the stack. When you don't see smoke coming out of a piece of construction equipment, you don't really think anything of it – it's kind of a neutral thing. But when you see that black smoke come out of a stack, it's a negative. So we went from a negative perception to a neutral perception, which I consider to be a major improvement.” Shacat, who started working with Grace as an environmental consultant himself, acknowledges the value of hiring professional grant-proposal writers to gain access to incentive money. “I think the benefits definitely outweigh the cost associated with hiring a grant writer,” says Shacat. “The grant proposal might cost up to $7,000, but then the value of the grant could be several hundred thousand dollars. If you repower and replace equipment you're going to get better fuel consumption and more power, better productivity and less downtime. So that proposal pays for itself pretty quickly. There is some risk involved – maybe you don't get funded – but if you do, then it's definitely worthwhile.”