Charleston ports agency gets $2M for ‘green cranes’ project

Article Image

Posted October 1, 2019

The agency that operates the Port of Charleston hopes to save money and the environment by outfitting some of its diesel-guzzling cranes with hybrid engines that run mostly on battery power.

The State Ports Authority will convert a dozen of its rubber-tired gantry, or RTG, cranes with $2 million from an Environmental Protection Agency program.

The federal grant was awarded to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control in partnership with the ports authority.

Stephen Brisben, the SPA’s mechanical technical specialist, said the new power plants will be installed on some of the least-efficient cranes, which are used to move and stack cargo containers at the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant.

“This aligns with our efforts to upgrade equipment to both improve air quality standards in the Lowcountry and enhance terminal operations,” Brisben said.

The new engines will reduce emissions of particulate matter, air toxins and nitrogen oxides up to 96 percent while reducing annual fuel consumption by more than 100,000 gallons.

The batteries in the new engines will be charged by a small diesel generator. Typically, the hybrid power packs burn about a half-gallon of diesel an hour, while the old engines consume 12 gallons an hour.

Rhonda Thompson, chief of DHEC’s Bureau of Air Quality, said the EPA’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act grant program “has played an important role in helping to reduce harmful emissions from diesel engines while simultaneously creating opportunities for economic growth and development in South Carolina.”

There are a total of 52 RTGs at Wando Welch Terminal, and the authority has ordered 13 more of the cranes for that site.

Other seaports are switching from all-diesel to hybrid engines on their RTGs. A tenant at the Port of Oakland, for example, is converting 13 cranes to the environmentally friendly power packs in a program that will run through next summer. The Port of Los Angeles also is testing hybrid-powered RTGs and other equipment as part of its Clean Air Action Plan.