Ports focus more on going green than ever

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Fenix Marine, a terminal operator based out of the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach worked with ACT Commodities

In 2020, Fenix Marine, a terminal operator based out of the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach, worked with ACT Commodities to help source and purchase renewable energy credits for their scope 2 emissions.

By Jim Romeo

The Port of Corpus Christi in Texas has been in existence for nearly 100 years and is the third largest port in the U.S. Recently, it has partnered with Ares Management Corporation to develop renewable energy infrastructure on its property. The new infrastructure will include a renewable energy and clean fuel hub that includes solar facilities, battery storage facilities, and electrolyzer facilities used to produce green hydrogen that is created using renewable energy instead of fossil fuels.

Sounds a bit complex, but it represents the actions of many ports, domestically and around the world, who are integrating sustainable measures into their facilities and operations to aid climate change.

Aggressive Sustainability at European Ports

Sustainable efforts by ports are growing within the U.S., but are gaining great momentum in Europe and the rest of the world. The European Sea Ports Organization (ESPO) is a consortium of European ports. In its “ESPO Environmental Report 2020,” it revealed that climate change is top priority nowadays. Just a few years back, in 2017, climate change as a priority was ranked 10th. In 2020, it is ESPO’s second priority.

The report offered a cornucopia of findings indicating sustainability is a top initiative for a majority of European ports surveyed.

Approximately 81% of ports have set up an environmental monitoring program, with port waste being the most monitored issue. Over half of the respondent ports offer on shore power supply (OPS). 57% of respondents provide differentiated dues for ships that go beyond regulatory standards, with air emissions, waste and climate change as the main targets of these discounts.

Lana Sukhodolska is the European renewables business development leader with Honeywell Building Technologies. She says ports are transitioning to be more sustainable and smarter ports that embrace both the blue and green economies.

“The actions they are taking now, and are planning for the future, will help minimize their impact on our planet,” she says. “I categorize those actions into three evolutionary areas: the lower-hanging that is achievable today, the middle-of-the-road initiatives that are in development, and the advanced solutions that will make up the future of sustainable seaports.”

Sukhodolska says ports should start with the low-hanging fruit to become more environmentally friendly. “Using renewables onsite, such as solar panels, wind power, and shore-power, can all help contribute to reducing a port’s carbon footprint,” she explains. “On the digital front, technology like artificial intelligence (AI), logistics automation and self-driving vehicles can improve efficiencies and remove bottlenecks in processes. Finally, as infrastructure is constantly evolving and growing, turning to sustainable construction and operation practices can also improve a port’s climate impact.”

She adds that there are middle-of-the-road initiatives where ports can pursue newer renewable solutions such as electric ferries, electric barges and battery energy solutions. “These solutions are considered less mature, and it may be more difficult to secure financing for their activation; however, the use of these technologies can offset fluctuations in the grid,” she says. “They also promote a circular economy that reduces waste and shifts away from the use of finite resources.”

Finally, she says that, looking ahead, ports can explore renewable fuel efforts. “Biofuels have grown in popularity but have not gone mainstream—something we’re likely to see in the near future. In addition, incoming infrastructure for “green” ammonia and methanol are poised to be the fuels of the future,” she says.

Green Initiatives Prevail Worldwide

Christopher Johnston is the director of total sustainability at Energy Focus in Solon, Ohio. He acknowledges the heightened focus on ports—and on the U.S. transportation industry as well—with grant money becoming available for them to put sustainable efforts into place.

“Climate change is a growing concern for port owners and operators, shipping companies and other maritime businesses,” he says. “Ports are under varying degrees of public and policy pressure to reduce energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). However, the growth opportunities for seaports that prioritize sustainability are also ever increasing. Transportation makes up roughly 44%, which was valued at approximately $1,440 billion in 2015. Action plans put forth by PIANC and the International Association of Ports and Harbors, such as the Navigating a Changing Climate Action Plan, have led numerous ports to take advantage of EPA grants to launch their sustainability programs.”

Johnson notes that the Port of Virginia’s sustainability program included the replacement of three aging Tier 1 diesel-powered straddle carriers with Tier 4 diesel-electric shuttle carriers and was supported by a $750,000 EPA grant. “Low hanging fruit include upgrading lighting to LED, which reduces operating and maintenance costs particularly when high quality LEDs are employed,” he says. “Energy Focus’ floodlights and waterline security lights were designed for the U.S. Navy and are standard equipment for Navy vessels. Such lights can be installed with the knowledge that they will stand the test of time, reducing energy consumption and material waste from frequently replacing failed lights.”

Commitment to Sustainability

Bogdan Vilicich is an environmental commodities specialist with ACT Commodities in New York City. He says there’s a growing sensitivity by investors as well as other stakeholders to ensure those they do business with are engaged in sustainability practices.

“Companies understand that a commitment to sustainability is better for their brand and how customers perceive them, as well as being better for their industry in the long run,” he says. “More carbon emissions could drive rising sea levels that pose a threat to ports in the future, and many companies are realizing this could seriously affect their bottom lines. This concern for sustainability is only going to increase in the coming years. More investors and stakeholders will look at their investments and grow concerned that there could be potential climate risks, and more governments will start to emulate each other, creating a robust regulatory framework for sustainability.”

Vilicich points out that ports present an ideal focal point for a transition to sustainability. They involve so many players, from unions to shipping companies, to trucking firms, to rail companies. “All these stakeholders have their own contributions they can bring to the table when it comes to driving the industry in a more climate-friendly direction, and, in fact, all are necessary,” he says. “For example, there might be environmental concerns that also double as employee safety concerns from the perspective of a union. Alternatively, trucking companies will have a different set of concerns related to diesel fuel emissions, and rail companies will have their own challenges to solve with coal.”

Summarily, there’s a wide mix of how ports everywhere are contributing to sustainable ways to curb climate change. But ports are unique. They are at the intersection of many different modes of transportation: truck, rail and other modes. Like the Port of Corpus Christi, ports are in the center of so much energy exchange that there’s much opportunity to take preventive measures that would otherwise harm the environment.

All of them have environmental challenges they’re approaching in different ways, and they may not be aware of the challenges each other has. The port is their common unifier.

Categories: Environment, Inland and Coastal, Ports & Terminals Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,