A report recently authored by GNA (March 2017) and just released by the California Energy Commission assesses the feasibility, issues, and potential benefits associated with expanded use of natural gas in California high horsepower (HHP) seaport applications.
The report found that using natural gas in HHP seaport applications can provide strong societal benefits, especially in high-impact sectors like marine vessels and locomotives. It can significantly reduce key harmful air pollutants, thereby improving ambient air quality. By switching to natural gas, HHP end users have opportunity to simultaneously comply with challenging regulatory requirements, while potentially reducing life-cycle costs. Moreover, if these fleets can gain affordable access to growing volumes of RNG in California, they will be able to realize deep reductions of GHG emissions.
The report focuses on the use of natural gas in California’s three major ports: Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland. These large seaports act as the anchors of California’s world-class goods movement system. To date, actual use of natural gas to power HHP vehicles, vessels and equipment at these and other North American ports has essentially been limited to proof-of-concept tests and a few early market commercial deployments. In addition, low oil prices over the last several years have inhibited further growth of demonstrations and deployments. However, the predicted return of higher oil prices, combined with recent phasing-in of stricter emission regulations, has stimulated new interest in switching to clean-burning natural gas engines.
LNG fuel systems are receiving the most interest for these large HHP applications, but CNG fuel systems may also play a role in future niche applications. Gradually, RNG can be phased in to displace fossil-based natural gas, to sharply reduce GHG emissions and maximize the climate change benefits.
As summarized in this report, there are important technical, policy, institutional, and economic challenges that must be addressed before California can realize the major benefits of using natural gas in seaport HHP applications. Recommendations are provided for actions that can be helpful to enable fuel switching in marine and locomotive applications serving California seaports. The recommendations generally fall within the jurisdictions of key California state agencies and state funding programs. However, they also broadly apply to federal and local agencies, industry groups, and academic institutions that seek to reduce criteria pollutant and/or GHG emissions from marine vessels and locomotives.
The report outlines specific recommendations in the following categories:
- How to help advance natural gas engines and vessels/locomotives.
- How to support and expand fuel production, infrastructure development, and bunker supply chains.
- How to help increase in-state RNG production and its use in HHP port applications.
The executive summary and full report can be found here.