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  February 15th, 2021 | Written by

5 Port Applications You May Be Surprised Can Run on Propane

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In order to keep pace with international shipping activity in ports across the globe, crews need efficient, reliable material handling equipment. While there are several energy sources available to power port equipment, many are finding that propane can be a go-to fuel for a wide variety of port applications.

Propane has been a trusted engine fuel in the transportation sector for both on- and off-road vehicles for several decades, backed by the most trusted engine and fuel system manufacturers — including Power Solutions International, Agility, Origin, and Cummins, to name a few. Manufacturers are producing propane solutions in a variety of horsepower and applications, granting the versatility to tackle both land- and sea-side tasks.

Beyond its versatility to provide a port-wide energy solution, propane offers key advantages over other energy sources, like diesel and electric, in terms of emissions, air quality, and cost savings.

Here are five popular port applications that can run on propane:

1. Forklifts

When it comes to forklifts, people may first think of electric for low-emissions indoor operation or diesel for outdoor heavy lifting — but propane can do it all. In fact, propane is an ideal fuel for material handling. Propane-powered forklifts keep crews more productive because they don’t lose power throughout the workday and a fast, easy cylinder change gets them back in business quickly. Employees don’t have to worry about downtime for recharging, like with electric equipment.

Plus, unlike diesel, propane equipment can be safely operated indoors and outdoors, because of its clean, low-emissions profile. Propane forklifts beat electric equipment, too, when you take upstream, site-to-source emissions into account. Site-to-source emissions include those produced at power plants where electricity is generated — many of which are still coal-fired — as well as the emissions during transportation to the facility.

2. Port and Terminal Tractors

TICO Manufacturing recently launched a new propane terminal tractor powered by PSI’s emissions-certified 8.8-liter engine. TICO Pro-Spotter terminal tractors are widely used in distribution centers, rail terminals, and ports to move semi-trailers and shipping containers.

Propane autogas engines provide uncompromised power, performance, fuel efficiency, and flexibility to any user. Plus, according to data from the Argonne National Laboratory, propane autogas terminal tractors produce 12 percent fewer lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline-powered terminal tractors.

3. Light-Duty Vehicles

Propane autogas can power a variety of light-duty vehicles including shuttle vans, trucks, and security vehicles. Light-duty fleet vehicles are available from major manufacturers — as both OEM-dedicated vehicles and EPA/CARB-certified aftermarket conversions.

Businesses of all sizes are looking to propane autogas for its cost savings and reduced emissions and ports shouldn’t be an exception. Propane autogas provides the lowest total cost-of-ownership of any fuel, in part because of its reliable performance and low costs for fuel, infrastructure, and maintenance. Plus, they are typically less expensive to purchase than electric and natural gas vehicles and they can save up to 50 percent on fuel costs compared to gasoline and diesel.

Propane autogas vehicles reduce NOx emissions by up to 36 percent compared to diesel vehicles, greenhouse gas emissions by up to 22 percent compared to gasoline vehicles, and up to 45 percent less particulate matter than electric vehicles throughout the full fuel cycle. And beyond its lowest total-cost-of ownership and reduced emissions, propane autogas vehicles also help crews eliminate downtime linked to maintenance and diesel repairs.

4. Medium-Duty Vehicles

Propane autogas delivery trucks are gaining popularity in other industries in which larger loads are moving from point A to point B and reliability is key. Take the food and beverage industry, for instance. Well respected companies like Nestle Waters and Schwan’s Home Service rely on Roush CleanTech medium-duty propane autogas vehicles for product deliveries. New technology is even allowing for larger refrigeration trucks to be powered by propane autogas, too. For example, Roush CleanTech recently displayed its 2019 F-750 refrigerated van at the 2020 NTEA Work Truck Show.

5. Shore Power

Beyond powering on- and off-road vehicles, propane can provide stationary and mobile power generation for port facilities, too. Shore power, which is sometimes referred to as cold-ironing or alternative marine power, is an effective way of reducing air emissions and improving local air quality. One way to provide ports with shore power is with commercial propane generators. By incorporating propane as a power solution, ports alleviate the need, and reliance, on grid-based shore power options.

As propane technology continues to evolve, it can provide port operations with a number of key advantages compared to other energy sources including increased energy efficiency, energy security and resiliency, cost savings, and the versatility to tackle a wide variety of applications.

Plus, crews don’t want to be bothered with multiple fuel types and energy sources to complete different types of jobs. Fortunately, propane can handle various load sizes, operate indoors or outside, and even operate on- or off-road and land- or sea-side. Visit to learn more about the power and versatility of propane.


Jeremy Wishart is director of off-road business development for the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be reached at