Port of Call: Los Angeles
Port of Call: Los Angeles
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Port of Call: Los Angeles
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The busy Port of Los Angeles is looks to energy management planning for reliable power supply.

The Port of Los Angeles is a busy place. It's the busiest place for goods coming into the United States, handling approximately 175 million metric tons of cargo annually. Together, the Port of Los Angeles and neighboring Port of Long Beach receive 70 percent of U.S. imports from China and 40 percent of all goods coming into the United States by sea.

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As such, the ships coming and going use a significant amount of fuel - fuel that creates a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions if left idling while loading and unloading. With California's strict air emissions regulations, continuously running the ships' diesel engines is not an option.

In response, ships are now connected to the electric power grid at the port and the engines are shut down while crews continue loading and unloading — a practice referred to as alternative maritime or shore-to-ship power.

"Alternative maritime power helps solve the air emissions problem, but it's putting a strain on the port's power supply that wasn't designed to support that level of demand," says Matt Wartian, Burns & McDonnell regional business development director. "We're already looking ahead and anticipate doubling, or even tripling, electricity consumption over the next decade as alternative maritime power use increases, cargo volume grows, and terminals shift from human-operated to automated and electrified cargo handling equipment."

Energizing the Future

With that kind of growth in demand comes a higher potential for strained energy and reduced reliability and stability. As a landlord port overseeing 7,500 acres, 43 miles of waterfront and 24 cargo terminals, the Port of Los Angeles is committed to taking a leadership role in energy management.

Burns & McDonnell is developing the Energy Management Action Plan (E-MAP) for the Port of Los Angeles that will serve as the basis for future strategies at the port, and potentially at ports nationwide. Initially, the plan calls for a high-level review of energy demand and use, current issues, growth, and potential issues and opportunities.

In addition, Burns & McDonnell is exploring on-site energy supply options, such as microgrids and fuel cells, which can provide distributed energy sources that operate independently of the larger grid.

"We're focused on five energy pillars: energy resiliency, availability, reliability, sustainability and efficiency," Wartian says. "From there we'll develop a strategy for improving energy management and information at each port. We will use that document as the basis for moving the whole process forward."

A National Issue

Reliable power isn't just a concern for West Coast ports. Destructive weather, such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and snow and ice storms the Northeast is prone to, can also disable the power supply to East Coast ports.

"It's critical that we find a way to manage the increased demand on our grid now before we experience a catastrophic failure," says Carter Atkins, environmental specialist and E-MAP project manager for the Port of Los Angeles. "If we can find a model that works and share that knowledge with ports around the country, it will help protect a vital part of our economy."

Part of the effort to develop strategies for improving energy management at ports is developing recovery programs and conducting studies to implement them — from short-term actions in the present to long-term planning for future upgrades. The Port of Los Angeles already is investing approximately $3 billion in capital improvements this decade to enhance efficiencies and prepare terminals to handle larger ships needing more power.

"The sizes of vessels will continue to grow substantially as shipping lines focus on reducing shipping costs, and competition between East Coast and West Coast ports for cargo handling business will increase with the opening of the expanded Panama Canal in 2015," Wartian says. "Ports will really begin using energy management planning to provide secure, reliable and competitive services to their clients."

For more information, contact Matt Wartian, 858-320-2945.

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