Port Communities are Plagued with Poor Air Quality: How Propane Can Help

April 20, 2023

(Photo: PERC)
(Photo: PERC)

Ports are the gateway to the American economy, bringing in 90 percent of internationally traded cargo, according to the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA). The important role ports play in goods movement also brings large amounts of traffic from heavy-duty diesel vehicles, vessels, barges, and cargo handling equipment (CHE).

Researchers at the Environmental Protection Agency found people in near-port communities are disproportionately impacted by emissions from port operations, distribution, and other industries located near or within the port. While there are many different emissions sources, the study noted one of the main culprits of this environmental injustice are diesel-powered vehicles, marine vessels, and other equipment found in ports. Fortunately, there are clean propane-powered solutions available today to mitigate pollution caused by heavy-duty equipment.

As engine technology continues to advance, applications continue to get cleaner. To address the issue of environmental injustice facing port communities, these solutions need to be implemented immediately by removing dirty diesel and gasoline applications from ports.

Propane Powers Port Operations
Port authorities have the ability to make a significant, positive impact on their communities using propane. With the ability to power forklifts, yard tractors, and provide shore power, propane is the clean energy source ports can use to reduce emissions.

Shore power, or cold ironing, provides electrical power from the shoreline to a ship while it’s docked, allowing ships to maintain fundamental vessel functions without running auxiliary engines and burning diesel fuel. These connections can be powered by microgrids—local, self-sufficient electric grids that can disconnect from the traditional grid and operate autonomously. Microgrids are often made up of one or more distributed energy solutions, such as solar panels, wind turbines, and generators that produce and store energy. By implementing a propane generator, these fuel cells can lead to near-zero emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulfur oxide (SOx), carbon monoxide (CO), and hydrocarbon (HC), as well as a 16 percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions compared to diesel power generation.

In addition to powering microgrids, propane can power various CHE such as yard tractors and forklifts. Propane forklifts produce 94 percent fewer HC and NOx emissions when compared with diesel and 76 percent fewer SOx emissions when compared to electric’s well-to-wheel emissions. In fact, internal combustion engines in forklifts and yard tractors are currently the only near-zero emission fuel technology platform capable today of meeting marine terminal operators’ endurance needs—traveling consistent speeds and distances no matter the cargo weight.

Clean, Renewable Propane
Propane is a readily available, proven, clean energy source that is responsible for significant emissions reductions in communities around the globe. Now, renewable propane is ramping up emissions reductions as an ultra-low energy source. Renewable propane offers the same benefits as conventional propane—reliability, portability, and power—but with the added benefit of further reduced emissions when compared with other energy sources.

Renewable propane is made from a variety of renewable feedstocks, primarily camelina plant oil, vegetable oil, animal fats, or used cooking oil. Plus, because renewable propane’s chemical structure and physical properties are the same as conventional propane, it can be used alone or in innovative blends with other renewable or low-carbon energy sources to further reduce carbon emissions without sacrificing on performance.

Propane: Ensuring Equitable Clean Energy
Investing in clean port infrastructure is the first step toward a zero emissions future. To adequately combat the energy crisis and ensure equity, a diverse combination of alternative energy sources, including propane, is necessary—the more diverse the energy mix is, the more reliable it is.

Propane is an affordable way to replace diesel, upgrade equipment, and ensure every port has access to clean energy.

As the nation looks for ways to reduce harmful emissions, especially in marginalized communities, propane can play an important role as a clean and affordable energy source. By investing in propane equipment and reducing harmful pollutants from aging diesel port applications, families can live healthier, more productive lives.

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