Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Cascadian ports target pollution

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Cascadian ports target pollution
Plan calls for reductions in emissions from ships, shore machines
Fiona Anderson, Vancouver Sun
Published: Thursday, May 17, 2007

The ports of Vancouver, Seattle and Tacoma have agreed to ambitious targets to reduce particulate emissions from ships at dock by 70 per cent by 2010 and those from cargo handlers by 30 per cent.

The targets — part of the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy released Wednesday — focus on diesel particulates at the port, because that’s “where we could have a big influence rapidly,” Port of Seattle spokesman Mick Shultz said in an interview.

The 70-per-cent goal for reductions, which applies to overall emissions and is not on a per-ship basis, can be attained by using cleaner fuels while at dock, a news release issued by the ports said. Cargo-handling equipment, such as cranes and forklifts, can meet their 30-per-cent reduction target by switching to an ultra-low sulphur diesel or a bio-diesel blend, as well as upgrading equipment.

The strategy also includes plans to discuss with industry possible targets for trains, trucks and harbour vessels, as well as targets on greenhouse gases.

While Shultz refused to call the goals a wish list, there will be no penalties if industry does not meet the targets.

“The whole concept here [is] it’s voluntary, it’s collaborative,” Shultz said.

And that is the problem. Voluntary schemes to reduce pollution do not have a good record of achievements. Legislated ones do.

The diesel fuel in use here is already very low in sulphur. That is because it comes from light sweet BC crude or the tar sands of Alberta where the process of converting thick sticky sludge to fuel removes the sulphur. So forget about much reduction here in shore equipment emissions.

The real problem is the bunker C burned in sea going vessels. This is literally the bottom of the barrel. Just a few steps above bitumen, and will be the cheapest the ship can lay hands on and probably from wherever the ship came from. And that is not likely to change except to the extent that they refuel here and the oil companies could improve the quality of that fuel – but probably won’t to keep the price down.

One requirement could be to have ships switch to shore power while at the berth. This means they could shut off their engines. Again, unless this is legislated, or the electricity is much cheaper than on board generation, that won’t happen either and does nothing for the number of ships that moor at buoys for long periods of time waiting for a berth.

There could be advances in requiring engines to be shut off while stationary. Idling diesels are common – in trucks and locomotives. The railways have still not got around to technologies that allow old engines to be shut down and restarted easily – and many of the switchers working in the port area are very old indeed. There are “green goats”– remanufactured locos with bigger battery packs and better control systems (and sold as “hybrids” to distinguish them from just about every other railway engine in North America since they are also diesel electric) but so far only in small numbers and none based here yet. These locos do not need to idle as the diesel only runs when the batteries need charging.

Green Goat Switcher

Here is a quote from their web page

Our technology transforms aging switchers with their 50 plus year chassis lives, into modern multi-gensets or hybrids, delivering 20-60% cuts in diesel fuel use and greenhouse gases emissions and 80-90% reductions in smog-precursor oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulates. As an added bonus, the Railpower locomotives are exceptionally quiet, and offer a very high adhesion factor.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 17, 2007 at 10:24 am

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