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How to Reduce Diesel-Engine Emissions at Ports

portUS ports can reduce emissions from diesel-powered ships, trucks and other port equipment through a variety of strategies and clean technologies, according to an EPA report.

National Port Strategy Assessment: Reducing Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases at US Ports examines current and future emission trends from diesel engines in port areas, and explores the emissions reduction potential of strategies like replacing and repowering older, dirtier vehicles and engines and deploying zero emissions technologies.

US ports are set to expand significantly as international trade continues to grow, and the size of ships coming to ports increases. This growth means more diesel engines at ports emitting carbon dioxide. These engines also emit fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and other pollutants that contribute to serious health problems.

Accelerating retirement of older port vehicles and equipment and replacing them with the cleanest technology will reduce emissions and increase public health benefits, the report says. For example, replacing older drayage trucks with newer, cleaner diesel trucks can reduce NOx emissions by up to 48 percent, and particulate matter emissions by up to 62 percent, in 2020 when compared to continuing business as usual. In 2030, adding plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to these fleets could yield even more NOx and PM2.5 relative reductions from drayage trucks.

Allen Schaeffer of the Diesel Technology Forum, which represents diesel engine and equipment manufacturers and suppliers, told the Wall Street Journal that said diesel engines are typically concentrated at hubs, including seaports. “It’s not a surprise to anyone that if you do a study looking at ports and the environment and air quality, diesel is going to come up as one of your primary considerations,” he said. “The more interesting thing is what are you doing about it, and how are you going to get more new technology and cleaner diesel trucks on the scene,”

Schaeffer said new diesel trucks produce 98 percent lower emissions than those built 10 years ago.

The EPA’s Ports Initiative has set goals and taken various actions to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases through regulations. For example, the North American and US Caribbean Sea Emissions Control Areas require lower sulfur fuel to be used for large ocean-going vessels. This requirement has reduced fuel-based particulate-matter emissions from these vessels by about 90 percent, the agency says.

In addition, some port areas are already applying the emission reduction strategies assessed in the report. For example, Siemens installed an eHighway system near the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the two largest ports in the US. Siemens eHighway is the electrification of select highway lanes via a catenary system that supplies trucks with electric power, similar to how modern day trolleys or streetcars are powered on many city streets.

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