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Bold plan to decarbonize Detroit port operations and improve air quality

Bold plan to decarbonize Detroit port operations and improve air quality

(Posted on 23/04/24)

The Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority has revealed details of an ambitious programme to dramatically improve air quality and the health of residents by cutting carbon emissions to net zero by 2040.

Boasting the title of Michigan’s largest inland port, the Port of Detroit is located on along the Detroit and Rouge Rivers within Wayne County. The Port Authority oversees the port, which is made up of multiple marine terminals for handling bulk, general, and liquid cargo as well as passengers.

Working with technical experts from sustainability consultancy Tunley Environmental, and thanks to funding from the State of Michigan, it established that operations across the port region were responsible for 27,869 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, and that urgent action was needed.

“The maritime industry is responsible for 3% of global emissions, and it’s growing. We must work to convert from fossil fuels to zero emission power sources in our ships, port equipment and trucks by 2040 in order to avoid catastrophic effects of climate change. But we’re not just concerned about 2040. The steps we’re announcing today on Earth Day will have an immediate impact on air quality and will improve the lives of residents in our community.” said Mark Schrupp, Port Authority executive director. Raquel Garcia, executive director of Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision, the plan’s community engagement partner, agreed. “Southwest Detroit and downriver communities have some of the highest asthma rates in the country. The plans announced today – like converting to biodiesel fuel immediately – will improve the quality of the air we breathe.”

Robert Moorcroft, who led the year-long project for Tunley Environmental, gave credit to terminal operators who voluntarily shared data and information about their operations. This collaboration was essential to developing an accurate assessment of carbon emissions and for identifying strategies to reduce emissions going forward.

“We have been pleasantly surprised by the way the business community has gotten behind the plan,” said Dr Moorcroft. “There is genuine and strong support for the plan, which convinces me that we will meet our goals.”

Immediate actions highlighted in the plan to significantly reduce the port’s carbon footprint include the introduction of biodiesel, which emits 74 percent fewer emission than traditional diesel, and is compatible with most of the equipment used in the terminals today. Simultaneously, the plan advocates the transition to electric and hydrogen powered port equipment and trucks, as well as the continued research for a zero-emission replacement fuel for cargo ships.

Port Authority’s Chairman and Wayne County Commissioner Jonathan C. Kinloch stressed: “This report is not an end, but a beginning in the Port of Detroit’s road to becoming a sustainable port and reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2040. We envision a port that is economically and environmentally viable, where good jobs, growing businesses, and clean air can thrive together. This plan helps set course for us to follow.”

Tunley Environmental comprises a large team of PhD-level scientists with extensive knowledge and expertise in environmental sciences. This comprehensive understanding allows the company to provide innovative and scientific solutions at the highest level to clients. UK USA based Tunley has significant global projects, its science-based approach and commercial aptitude ensures it can identify realistic opportunities to reduce the negative impact organizations and products have on the environment.

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