Eco-friendly de-icing at Munich Airport

Efficient recycling of de-icing fluids

December 16, 2019

Munich Airport remains the only airport in the world that recycles and reuses its de-icing fluids onsite. The quantity of de-icing agents used ranges from 2,000 tons in a mild winter to 8,000 tons when conditions ar especially harsh.

With the recycling process, FMG has been able to reduce the quota of new de-icing products consumed to well below 50 percent. The actual quota varies according to the severity of the winter, but on occasion, the recycling quota is far above 50 percent. In addition, the recycling operations reduces the wastewater resulting from aircraft de-icing. The recycled amount no longer has to be purified in the treatment plant and can instead be reused as new de-icing fluid.

The wastewater arising during aircraft de-icing travels along slotted gutters and ducts into dedicated underground collecting tanks. Where the glycol concentration is at least 5 percent, it is reconditioned in the recycling plant and reused for aircraft de-icing within four days. Approximately 70 percent of the glycol contained in the de-icing fluid can be recovered and recycled in this manner. Where the proportion of glycol is less than 5%, the de-icing water is moved to a de-icing water basin via a sewer system. In this case recycling no longer makes sense for technical and economical reasons. 

With the recycling process, Munich Airport has been able to reduce the quota of new de-icing products consumed to well below 50%.  © Flughafen München GmbH
Aircraft de-icing at Munich Airport
Each aircraft is simultaneously de-iced by several de-icing vehicles. Depending on the aircraft type, two to six de-icing vehicles per aircraft are in use.  © Flughafen München GmbH

Additional water protection in the runway area

Due to the prevailing weather conditions, it is not possible to catch all de-icing fluid that drips off aircrafts in the de-icing areas. De-icing fluid can also affect green spaces next to the sealed aviation areas. To prevent this getting into the groundwater, Munich Airport is currently installing soil filter systems at each end of the runways – during ongoing operations. The soil filters clean the rainwater, which may be polluted with the conveyed de-icing fluid, and serve as a retention system. Once filtered the quality of the water is determined by measuring the total organic carbon. Depending on the result, the water is either discharged into a body of water or – in hard winters with high use of de-icing fluid – via the sewage system and de-icing water basin for further treatment.

For Munich Airport, a responsible approach to the environment plays a keyrole in its corporate strategy. By taking responsibility for the impact the airport has on the environment and by designing all areas of work as sustainable as possible, FMG strives to become a pioneer in this domain and goes far beyond statutory requirements and industry standards. These measures very often do not generate revenue, but allow an airport to exist and grow in a sustainable, environmental friendly manner – and the de-icing management is an important part of this process.