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Long Beach arrives late to the ERTG party

There are more than 3,000 ERTGs operating around the globe. The Port of Long Beach, which has a goal of transitioning all terminal equipment to zero emissions by 2030, is just putting its first units into operation.

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Officials from the Port of Long Beach, Southern California Edison and the California Energy Commission held a ceremony this week to launch what they claim is “the nation’s largest pilot project for zero-emissions cranes and other cargo-handling equipment for seaports”.

“Funded mostly by a $9.7 million grant from the California Energy Commission, the project will bring 25 vehicles that are zero- or near zero-emissions to Port of Long Beach marine terminals for one year to test their performance in a real-world setting. The launch event was held at Pacific Container Terminal at Long Beach’s Pier J — operated by SSA Terminals — one of three terminals participating in the project”.

Included in the project are nine RTG cranes that have been converted to electrical power with cable reels. While Long Beach and Los Angeles have led the world in tackling emissions from road trucks and implementing vessel speed restrictions and shore power for vessels at berth, they have been inexplicable laggards when it comes to ERTG systems. It is now 15 years since the first ERTGs were installed in Olso, and in the US the Georgia Ports Authority is well on the way to converting its entire fleet to electrical power.

According to the San Pedro ports’ most recent emissions inventories, all of the 64 RTGs at the Long Beach are diesel powered, as are all of the 113 RTGs at Los Angeles. For reasons that seem to include port and city authority engineers reluctance to accept conductor bars, both Los Angeles and Long Beach have bucked the near global trend to electrify RTGs. APM Terminals abandoned a project to electrify the RTGs at Pier 400 in LA.

There are some operational challenges that might be unique to Los Angeles and Long Beach, including the way terminal operators sometimes operate top picks in RTG blocks, that could present a safety hazard if electrical infrastructure is introduced. However, this hardly seems an insurmountable problem, and the ports have tackled more difficult issues in their push to reduce emissions and develop zero emissions equipment.

Nevertheless, the project at Pier J is a step an important step. The ports’ joint 2017 Clean Air Action Plan includes a goal of transitioning all terminal equipment to zero emissions by 2030, so it can be expected that other projects will follow, should the pilot demonstrate that ERTGs are ”viable” technology.

The pilot also includes the purchase of 12 battery-electric yard tractors for two more terminals, and the conversion of four LNG trucks into plug-in hybrid-electric trucks for a drayage trucking firm.

The environmental benefits are expected to be significant, reducing greenhouse gases by more than 1,323 tons and smog-causing nitrogen oxides by 27 tons each year. “Also, the switch to zero-emissions equipment is expected to save more than 270,000 gallons of diesel fuel,” Long Beach noted.


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