Researchers Highlight Air Quality Ideas for Ports

Shore power is a promising alternative allows ships to plug into the local electricity grid and reduce harmful emissions.

For ports that commit to reduce emissions and improve air quality, figuring out the best way forward can be challenging – the sheer volume of information on the subject may be overwhelming if you don’t know where to get started.

Fortunately, research facilitated by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) can help ports and terminals get up to speed on the latest breakthroughs in emissions technologies and clean air strategies.

Two weeks ago, TRB held its Annual Meeting in Washington, DC and welcomed more than 13,000 of the world’s top transportation researchers, practitioners, and stakeholders. The conference highlighted some of the top trends in transportation, and shared leading research on topics including air quality modeling, emissions control technologies, and environmental policy reviews. Texas ports can learn much from the air quality ideas presented at TRB – whether from the peer-reviewed research or insights from experienced panelists.

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Some of the most interesting ideas are:

  • Shore power for large ships – When docked at ports, many vessels burn dirty fuel for power. Shore power is a promising alternative that enables ships to plug into the local electricity grid and reduce harmful emissions. For example, a recent study found air quality benefits worth more than $70 million could be gained annually by retrofitting two-thirds of vessels that call at U.S. ports.
  • Maritime Environmental and Technical Assistance (META) Program – The U.S. Maritime Administration provides financial and technical support to ports and other marine industry stakeholders seeking to reduce environmental impacts. This collaborative effort helps promote new technologies and strategies that advance business and environmental goals.
  • Zero emissions passenger ferry – Hydrogen fuel cells are gaining traction as a zero-emission fuel source and the Sandia National Laboratories, in partnership with a broad coalition, is conducting a feasibility study on a hydrogen-powered high speed passenger ferry. The project, titled SF-BREEZE, includes a hydrogen fueling station and an economic viability study.

As Texas ports experience record-setting growth, it will be more important than ever for emission reductions in the sector to be a greater priority. Many of our ports, including the Port of Houston, expect new traffic from this year’s completion of the Panama Canal expansion. How will ports handle more traffic and still be on a path toward improved air quality? Some of the ideas shared at TRB can help.


Image Credit: United States Navy

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