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Compressed Natural Gas Trucks Arrive

Test of port drayage vehicles to help reduce air pollution

December 2, 2008

To help reduce air pollution at the busiest container seaports in the United States, Southern California Gas Co. (The Gas Company) -- joined by officials from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) – announced December 2, 2008, that they have launched a 12-month demonstration of the nation's first clean-burning compressed natural gas (CNG)-fueled drayage trucks to transport cargo containers.  

To study the use of natural gas in port operations, four heavy-duty CNG trucks will move containers between the San Pedro Bay ports and nearby freight-consolidation yards.  The CNG truck engines are certified to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's stringent 2010 on-road emission standards.  The trucks are expected to reduce nitrogen-oxides (NOx) emissions – a precursor to smog – by 80 percent, as compared with the cleanest diesel truck. 

"Long Beach welcomes the new CNG trucks to our port service," said Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster.  "These four trucks will be added to the growing number of clean trucks that will help make the Port of Long Beach one of the cleanest ports in the world."

About two-thirds of the 15 million container units coming into the San Pedro Bay ports annually are moved by truck within a 25-mile radius of the docks.  In an unprecedented environmental program to clean up pollution from diesel big rigs by 80 percent by 2010, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, working with trucking companies and other stakeholders, launched the Clean Trucks Program October 1.

According to port officials, this is the most ambitious anti-pollution plan ever developed at a global seaport.  The natural gas-fueled trucks launched into service today, with co-funding from both ports, will play an important role in that effort.  The demonstration project's overall cost is about $1.7 million.  The ports each contributed about $112,000, with $1.1 million from The Gas Company and $421,000 from the AQMD.

Cal Cartage, the largest motor carrier operating at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, will operate the natural gas-powered trucks, which are manufactured by Autocar and powered by Cummins Westport ISL G engines.

As a low-carbon fuel choice, the use of CNG in these trucks also will help California achieve its goals under its Low-Carbon Fuel Standard and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by approximately 20 percent.

"We envision these clean-fuel trucks playing an important role in the ongoing efforts to improve air quality around Southern California's busy ports," said Hal D. Snyder, vice president of customer programs at The Gas Company, who is serving as project lead.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District, which is co-funding the fueling station along with Trillium USA, said the use of these trucks will help reduce the health risks posed by air pollution from port-related sources.

"AQMD's funding of the Cal Cartage fueling facility will help reduce drayage truck emissions at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which are the largest fixed source of air pollution in the Southland," said Barry Wallerstein, AQMD's executive officer.  "This effort also will help the ports implement their clean port initiative goal of converting half of the truck fleet working in and around the ports to clean-burning natural gas."

Following the initial 12-month demonstration project, The Gas Company hopes to then further reduce emissions from the CNG drayage trucks by switching the fuel from CNG to a CNG/hydrogen blend.  This CNG/hydrogen fuel blend is widely regarded as an important gateway to a hydrogen future for the transportation sector, because the fuel has been proven to reduce nitrogen-oxides emissions from natural gas engines by as much as 50 percent.

View a short clip of the event, here.

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