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Clean, Reliable Propane Ensures Port Autonomy 


Clean, Reliable Propane Ensures Port Autonomy 

Propane provides clean energy now to meet emissions reduction regulations.

To keep pace with shipping activity and maintain autonomy, ports need a reliable energy supply. Plus, changing air quality regulations make it challenging for port authorities and tenants to reduce their emissions. Fortunately, there are clean and reliable propane-powered solutions available now to mitigate pollution.

In many ports, the top priority is to replace diesel equipment to satisfy emissions reduction requirements as well as make a better working and living environment for their employees and community. While going all-electric is the common default solution to improve a port’s air quality, the United States’ electric grid is already unable to keep up with demand and in many states, electricity is produced by burning coal. If the demand for electricity rises, greenhouse gases from coal will drastically increase as well. The good news is that there are other options available to meet clean energy demands while ensuring reliable operation. With a diverse combination of alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, grid power, and propane, achieving emissions reduction goals is possible now.

Staying Reliable with Propane-Powered Electric Grids

Port towns are often historic, which typically means they are on older power grids that require significant amounts of time and resources to maintain. Propane allows ports to operate independent of the electric grid, including the capability to power microgrids for primary, auxiliary, or shore power. 

A microgrid is a miniature power grid system designed to efficiently distribute power to nearby facilities or buildings. 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 generators.

In addition to powering primary operational needs, propane-powered microgrids are a clean, reliable way to supply shore power. 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. 

Propane-Powered Port Equipment is Reducing Emissions

Not only can propane allow ports to cleanly operate independent of the fragile electric grid, it can also power essential cargo handling equipment such as yard tractors and forklifts. In fact, propane-powered internal combustion engine (ICE) yard tractors are currently one of the only near-zero emission fuel technologies capable today of meeting marine terminal operators’ endurance needs—traveling consistent speeds and distances no matter the cargo weight—while still providing emissions reductions. 

Today’s ultra-low NOx propane engines are 90 percent cleaner than EPA standards. In fact, recent emissions testing at Port Newark Container Terminal (PNCT) confirmed that propane-powered yard tractors yield 99 percent fewer NOx composite and idle emissions than diesel tractors. Additionally, propane tractors produce 77.5 percent fewer THC idle emissions, 14 percent fewer brake-specific carbon dioxide emissions, and 75 percent fewer TPM emissions than diesel.

Propane yard tractors aren’t the only technology challenging diesel-powered equipment. Propane forklifts produce 94 percent fewer HC and NOx emissions when compared with diesel without any drop-off in payload or power.  

Because propane can power everything in a port from the electric grid to CHE, ports can more quickly implement clean solutions to accelerate emissions reductions. Plus, with multiple funding opportunities available, ports can get more clean, reliable propane-powered upgrades, fast.

Learn more about how propane can support port operations at