Penticton Airport Climate Change Risk Assessment Report

In 2020, Transport Canada & Public Service and Procurement Canada (PSPC) contracted Prism Engineering to conduct a Climate Risk Assessment Report for the Penticton Regional Airport, in the interior of British Columbia. The Penticton Regional Airport is owned and operated by Transport Canada, and offers service for the South Okanagan, Similkameen and West Kootenay areas providing approximately 150,000 flights from 2017-2019.

Climate change is affecting airport operations in a number of ways, and may adversely impact existing airport infrastructure. The airport is situated within a valley bottom traversed by the Okanagan River, which is channelized and dyked. This river is controlled by a dam at the outlet of Okanagan Lake. The airport was built on boggy marshland and the site foundation and substrate was hauled onto site to ensure there was an acceptable area to complete construction. Generally, the land below site is sandy soil and as a result, the area drains very well during periods of rain or flood despite the high-water tables.

A Risk Assessment using the Public Infrastructure Engineering Vulnerability Committee (PIEVC) Engineering Protocol was employed to determine the vulnerability of infrastructure components in regards to projected changes to climate specific to the Penticton airport and surrounding region. The assessment considered existing mechanical, electrical, and transportation infrastructure against heat and precipitation related climate parameters, identifying 136 climate infrastructure interactions. The PIEVC analysis identified 80 Low-Risk, 31 Medium-Risk, and 8 High-Risk interactions. Low Risk required no action, Medium Risk required action, and High Risk required action to address and decrease vulnerability. This analysis was then used to identify a set of short-term and mid-term recommendations with highest risk interactions being assigned short-term recommendations to be addressed quickly. All 8 High-Risk interactions identified were assigned short-term recommendations.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

Transport Canada sought to address the potential impacts to climate change by conducting a vulnerability and risk assessment to:

  • Ensure reliable service of their transportation systems;
  • Determine which infrastructure components may be vulnerable to climate and weather related impacts;
  • Identity and prioritize risk and qualitative actions to improve resiliency of the assets and operations to the changing climate.

The Climate Risk Assessment relied on data from the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (PCIC) and considered projected climate change scenarios of RCP 2.6, 4.5, and 8.5 to 2060. The high greenhouse gas emissions scenario of RCP8.5 was employed in the assessment and compared against a historical baseline period of 1971-2000. A number of climate indices were identified, including summer precipitation, winter night-time lows, days below freezing, number of warmer days above 25°C and 30°C, hottest day of the year, extreme heat and extreme rainfall.

The infrastructure assessed in the project include three main categories:

  • Transportation: includes the ramps, taxiways, runway and drainage appliances.
  • Electrical: components listed under electrical has been organized by system including electrical distribution systems, generator systems and lighting systems. These include systems across various buildings.
  • Mechanical: components listed under mechanical have been organized by system or equipment type including central heating systems, unitary heating equipment, HVAC units, air distribution, plumbing equipment, food and housekeeping services, fire protection and controls systems. These include systems across various buildings.

Identifying Actions

The Climate Risk Assessment follows the PIEVC Engineering Protocol, which outlines a five-stage process and methodology that assess the vulnerability of infrastructure components to regional specific climate change impacts:

  • Project Definition
  • Data Gathering and Sufficiency
  • Risk Assessment
  • Engineering Analysis (optional)
  • Conclusion and Recommendations

These steps allow the project team to systematically assess the vulnerability of infrastructure components against specific regional climate change impacts. At each “decision” point in the process, steps may be taken for further analysis (e.g. engineering analysis) and/or iteration back to step 3 for a thorough review.

Project definition consisted of establishing a list of infrastructures that will be assessed, determining the climate parameters for the specific project site, defining the future timeline for which the infrastructure will be assessed, understanding the operational considerations relevant to the airport, and Identifying data and resources required for later steps of the PIEVC process.

Data gathering and sufficiency included the evaluation of pertinent information and a preliminary risk assessment activity including building drawings, reports, runway documents, utility and maintenance logs, and future climate models. Considered in this step were transportation components, electrical components, mechanical components, and how each of these components could be affected by the climate indices selected.

Based on each infrastructure component and climate event, the transportation modal expert, electrical engineer and mechanical engineer examined the potential vulnerability if an interaction were to occur. The overall objective of Step 3 is to quantify the risk of each interaction which is estimated during a Risk Assessment Workshop. Risk is defined as a product of Probability and Severity of a negative event occurring (Risk = Severity x Probability). Using the preliminary risk assessment as a guide, a risk assessment workshop was conducted with members of operational staff and stakeholders to determine whether an interaction between each component and climate event can occur at the Penticton Airport and to reach a consensus between all attendees of the risk score associated with each interaction. The result of this workshop was a list of 136 climate infrastructure interactions ranked Low-Risk, Medium-Risk, and High-Risk.

Implementation

Climate infrastructure interactions ranked Medium (31) and High-Risk (8) were prioritized for action on either a short-term (needing to be addressed quickly and these recommendations should be dealt with right away) and medium-term (addressed when site design updates or component replacement is scheduled). All 8 High-Risk interactions related to extreme heat and extreme precipitation events and were prioritized for short-term action, while Medium-Risk were scheduled for medium-term action.

Transportation: Only one climate interaction required a short-term recommendation for Transportation Infrastructure: evaluation of existing drainage capacity to ensure the drainage system can manage current and projected precipitation events

Electrical: Four interactions required a short-term recommendation for Electrical Infrastructure:

  • Review and test grounding infrastructure to obtain a baseline measurement for comparison and future testing of existing conductivity/soil resistivity if grounding rods.
  • Conduct a thermal scan of electrical panel boards to identify and correct potential faults.
  • Inspect light standards to determine if any corrosion or mechanical damage has occurred which may compromise the structural integrity of the pole.
  • Conduct a detailed review of underground ducts to determine the extent of damage and debris as well as current condition of conductors and wire casings.

Mechanical: Three interactions required a short-term recommendation for Electrical Infrastructure:

  • Conduct an engineering heat load analysis of ATB Electrical Room to evaluate if the existing fan system is adequately designed to support the cooling requirements for the space in light of the increased frequency of 40°C days.
  • Perform condition assessment of existing AC units serving FEC and IPU building.
  • Ensure all plumbed eyewash stations feature adequate built-in filtration systems \

At present, operational protocols and procedural processes are in place at the Airport to deal with climate events currently experienced on site. Considering the future climate change projections, it is recommended that these policies and procedures be reviewed and revised to ensure that operational staff can effectively respond to projected climate events. Procedural upgrades can be addressed immediately as they do not require infrastructure upgrades or capital costs.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

The Climate Change Risk Assessment carried out resulted in the identification of 8 High-Risk vulnerabilities vital to airport infrastructure and operational capacity. The short-term recommendations aim to both assess and decrease vulnerability immediately, while implementing policies to monitor infrastructural capacity with climate change in mind. Further, operational and procedural protocol are being updated and reviewed to reflect the results of the Risk Assessment and the impacts of a changing climate. In addition to the climate risks and recommendations identified, the risk analysis outlines the importance of accounting for climate change parameters in infrastructure load capacity, the importance of ongoing observation and monitoring of performance of infrastructure, and the identification of gaps in data availability or data quality that require further work.

Next Steps

While short-term recommendations are being addressed immediately, a list of 31 medium-term recommendations exist to be addressed when site updates or component replacement is scheduled. Further, Transport Canada is encouraged to incorporate policies to promote Climate Change Risk Assessments prior to major asset upgrades. This is to ensure that the risks of climate change are considered at the outset of project planning cycles, ensuring greater asset resiliency against future climate change projections. Several project exclusions exist for future infrastructure risk assessments including the sewer system (a civil infrastructure system), the airfield control tower, migratory bird activity, and renovations that were under construction for the duration of the assessment.

Resources

Link to Full Case Study here

Additional Resources: 

  • Further understand how climate information can be applied in decision-making by exploring the Transportation Module on ClimateData.ca