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Long Beach port, BP pioneer shore-power system

June 3, 2009 |  6:57 pm

World's first shore-powered tanker terminal

Docked in Long Beach today with a fresh load of oil from Valdez, the Alaskan Navigator sat silently, with a few thin cables draping down to some gray metal boxes. Missing was the incessant rumble of diesel engines, which on an average cargo ship would be running constantly to keep electrical systems going, burning quite a bit of diesel fuel and generating a significant amount of pollution.

But the 941-foot Navigator, anchored at the BP Oil Terminal’s Pier T on the Long Beach port’s main channel, isn’t average. The vessel, owned by Alaska Tanker Co. of Portland, Ore., was plugged into what is billed as the world’s first shore-side electrical grid.

Only the Navigator’s sister ship, the Frontier, is similarly equipped. Oil tankers are special fuel guzzlers and air polluters because of the power needed to pump vast amounts of crude out of a ship. It’s the rough energy equivalent of a day’s worth of driving by 187,000 cars, according to the Port of Long Beach.

At a ceremony formally unveiling the port’s new dockside power system, port Executive Director Dick Steinke described it as “another giant step” toward cleaning up the air.

Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, who also attended the event, called it “part of an ongoing and continuous effort to make our port the cleanest in the world.”

The system required 1 million pounds of steel and concrete, including a series of steel pylons weighing 145,000 pounds each that had to be moved into position without disrupting the normal flow of cargo to and from the port, said Roger Brown, regional vice president for BP.

The project cost $23.7 million to build and took three years to complete, port officials said. About $17.5 million came from the port and the rest from BP.

Brown said that the emissions reductions amounted to 50% even when factoring in pollution created by the power plants that generate the electricity.

By 2014, California will require that each of the Port of Long Beach’s seven cargo container terminals be equipped with shore-side power systems. Liquid bulk terminals such as BP’s aren’t part of the state mandate, but port officials said that they planned to electrify them anyway.

-- Ron White

Photo: Electrical cables run from the Alaskan Navigator oil tanker to shore as the first-ever shore-power-equipped oil tanker terminal is unveiled at the BP terminal in the Port of Long Beach. Credit: David McNew / Getty Images