Many port operators are seeing a shift in their energy systems from the use of fossil fuels to renewable sources. The impact of this energy transition could be huge unless we identify specific areas where efficiencies could be seen.

One such area is the use of Rubber Tyre Gantry (RTG) cranes, where Royal HaskoningDHV has been involved in an innovative pilot project.

Minimising the impact

RTG cranes are a massive contributor to maritime port emissions – the average RTG uses around 100,000 litres of diesel annually. Each year, a vast fleet of cranes handles hundreds of millions of containers in sea ports around the world.

As such, port operators are facing increasing pressure from regulators, clients and the surrounding community to reduce their impact on climate change and local air quality.

Add to this the potential impact of high fuel prices, and it’s no surprise that operators are keen to develop cost-effective solutions to reducing the impact which RTG cranes have on their operations.

Most RTGs are powered by large displacement diesel generators which expend a huge amount of energy as they move containers around the port 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But the cranes lose that energy when lowering containers, wasting it as it is converted to heat – and it’s this energy which could be captured and re-used when the next container is lifted.

So what’s the solution?

In January 2014, we embarked upon the three year SusPorts pilot programme alongside three partners – CRESS, the University of Reading and the Valenciaport Foundation.

Working with two leading European container terminal operators, we identified an opportunity to use energy storage solutions which could capture and store electrical energy before re-using it during a terminal’s operations.

As a key outcome of the pilot project, at Royal HaskoningDHV we have created an “Energy and Emissions Management & Simulation Tool”, which allows us to predict the cost and benefits associated with the deployment of various energy storage solutions in container terminals around the world. The tool is currently being assessed in collaboration with a number of our UK-based clients, and has in fact already been praised further afield by the funder of a container terminal project in North Africa.

A tailored energy transition

After first quantifying fuel consumption and emissions at the port, we populate the tool with the individual requirements of each container terminal in order to determine a baseline energy use profile. The tool then allows us to run a number of scenarios to give an indication on the terminal’s potential emissions savings when measured against the baseline. In addition it estimates investment costs using a variety of solutions as well as suggesting the most appropriate technology for that situation, taking into account the local power, fuel and construction costs.

With the improvements we can make by applying the Simulation Tool’s recommendations, we can reduce the average crane’s fuel consumption by up to 50%.

For a typical container terminal with around 90 RTGs, that would equal a saving of around 4.5m litres of diesel per year, as well as enabling port operators to recoup fuel savings of around €2.7m.

Changing perceptions

Our tool is designed to assist port operators to make a quick and cost-effective assessment of the solutions available to them. But the first step to success is for this technology to be readily accepted by crane operators. In order to do so, implementation needs to be as seamless as possible to ensure that each crane operator can maintain – if not increase – productivity.

Not only is this sort of tool commercially attractive to port operators, but it also has significant reputational benefits – ports are often regarded as ‘poor neighbours’, but by improving noise and air quality, alongside the additional health benefits this offers the workforce, I’ve no doubt that perceptions about the industry will begin to change.

Michael will be speaking on the topic of the SusPorts project on Day Two of the 2017 GreenPort Congress, taking place from 11-13 October in Amsterdam. To view the full conference programme, please click here.

Read more about energy efficiency in container ports.