In a demonstration aimed at helping cut diesel fuel emissions in the Port of Oakland, CA, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announced Wednesday the successful use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in a power-production process used on docked cargo ships to supply all of their electricity needs while in port. The utility called it a “milestone” in starting to clean up the air in and around the port.

Based on the results of the demonstration, the LNG generator system has the potential to “reduce a tremendous amount of emissions from the ships at berth,” a PG&E utility spokesperson said. The Port of Oakland has plans to apply the power source to all of the ships docking there by 2010, and last year it had 1,940 ships making stops for an average of 18 hours, PG&E said.

Called “cold ironing,” the process applies LNG in a mobile system that kicks in at the dock to replace the ship’s onboard diesel-powered electric generation system. Electricity, of course, is widely used by equipment needed to load and unload ships.

“Mobile LNG cold ironing, a concept originally developed by Wittmar Engineering in 2001, provides even greater environmental and cost benefits by offering quick connection to a significantly cleaner fuel source and precluding the need for installation of permanent infrastructure,” said a PG&E spokesperson.

PG&E collaborated with container ship operator APL, generator producer CleanAir Marine Power (CAMP) and Wittmar Engineering on the project using APL’s 863-foot container ship, APL China. LNG was used in CAMP’s patented Dual Frequency Multi-Voltage (TM) mobile shoreside power generator. The utility said it provided the LNG, along with the related equipment and technical expertise.

PG&E said the demonstration has effectively moved LNG cold ironing “from concept to reality.” Results showed major emissions reductions for APL China ranging from 42.72% to 99.93% for carbon dioxide and PM10 particulates, respectively. It also showed reductions for carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide of 56.96% and 94.71%, respectively.

“LNG cold ironing is one of the most promising technologies to significantly reduce at-berth ship emissions, which make up approximately 28% of all port emissions,” said PG&E’s Brad Whitcomb, vice president of customer products and services. The port program is part of PG&E’s “commitment to developing clean-air transportation technologies,” he said.

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