- THE MAGAZINE
In a world of “better, cheaper, faster,” transportation often gets a bad reputation for a high carbon footprint. But transportation has made great strides in terms of sustainability. New designs are being deployed for reefers, planes, tires, fuels — virtually every aspect of transportation — that improve efficiency and clean up emissions.
The point is not just to buy sustainable transportation, notes Steve Leffin, director of global sustainability, UPS. “It’s applying it that matters. The skill is figuring out where sustainable projects fit into the business so they can be maintained.”
Ten Thousand Villages, a nonprofit fair trade retailer of indigenous goods from around the world, has it figured out. Pots made on the remote Indonesian island of Lombok travel by horse cart, truck and small boat to Java, where they are transferred to a container for transoceanic shipping, explains Chris Varner, import manager for Ten Thousand Villages.
As Doug Dirks, the company’s fair trade and artisan expert, elaborates, “The people we buy from understand the local transportation system and the costs. They often tell us goods can get from point to point by bike or rickshaw more efficiently than with motor vehicles. And, hiring 20 rickshaw drivers lowers costs and creates local jobs.”
In choosing horse carts and rickshaws, Ten Thousand Villages’ artisans are employing the resources at hand.
For the industrialized world, however, that means trucks, rail cars, planes and ships. Logistics providers know that, “Ocean is more efficient than rail; rail is more efficient than trucking; and trucking is more efficient than air transportation,” observes Lee Kindberg, director, environment and sustainability, North America, Maersk.
They are using this knowledge, combined with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GGP), to map the energy used throughout the company, identify opportunities and measure the impact of any changes. By leveraging those efficiencies, they can create the most energy efficient, cost-effective way to move goods while still meeting customer needs.
Eyeing Alternative Fuels
In 2012, trucks moved 68.5 percent of all U.S. domestic freight — 9.4 billion tons — according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA). Alternative fuels are an area of keen interest.
UPS, as one of the largest truck fleet operators, has a healthy history of testing new fuels for its fleets of trucks. Class 8 trucks use diesel because it has a higher energy density than other fuels. It is 30 percent more efficient than gasoline. However, some new engines have been developed that burn compressed natural gas. “When liquefied natural gas (LNG) is compressed to -261°F, it is a concentrated energy source that can run a truck 500 to 600 miles per day,” Leffin says.
UPS sees LNG as “a bridge between traditional fossil fuels and renewable alternatives that are not quite ready for broad-based, long-term commercial deployment,” explained Scott Davis, UPS chairman and CEO, last April, when he announced the company’s intention to add approximately 700 LNG vehicles to its fleet.
That addition will bring the number of LNG vehicles in the UPS fleet to 1,000. The company’s goal is to double the mileage covered by LNG vehicles from 200 million now to 400 million by 2017.
“LNG is an abundant energy source with a stable price and well-developed technology, and is clean-burning,” Leffin points out. It is 30 to 40 percent less expensive and emits 25 percent less CO2 than traditional fuels.
The company also buys electric, hydraulic hybrids, propane and biomethane vehicles, and has more than 2,600 alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles on the road. “It’s a rolling laboratory,” he says.
UPS is building three LNG fueling stations in Tennessee and one in Dallas, allowing it to serve its heavy-weight rigs and add LNG trucks to its Texas routes. UPS already operates 112 LNG tractor-trailers from Las Vegas, Nev.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Ontario, Calif.; and Salt Lake City and Beaver, Utah.
Shell Canada is helping open up the LNG market for heavy trucks by adding LNG stations to its existing Flying J truck stops. The first stations will be between Calgary and Edmonton, before spreading to other Alberta truck corridors and then to Manitoba and Ontario. In the U.S., there are numerous LNG fueling stations in Southern California supporting the ports of Long Beach/Los Angeles.
In the Netherlands, VOS Logistics piloted LNG vehicles and reports higher maintenance costs but lower fuel expenses, for a six year break-even point. CO2 emissions dropped by 30 percent, particle emissions dropped 85 percent and noise dropped 50 percent.
Rail Invests in Green
Improvements in rail transportation have doubled the freight-hauling capacity of one gallon of fuel. Specifically, “In 1980, railroads moved one ton of freight 235 miles on one gallon of diesel fuel. Today, railroads can move one ton of freight 476 miles — a 102 percent improvement,” notes an Association of American Railroads (AAR) spokesperson. Consequently, in 2012, American freight railroads used 3.7 billion gallons less fuel and emitted 41 million fewer tons of CO2 than if fuel efficiency had remained at 1980 levels.
Multiple, concurrent strategies have contributed to those improvements. Advances in freight car design enable the average train in 2012 to carry 3,458 tons of freight, up from 2,923 tons in 2000 and 2,222 tons in 1980.
Railroads have spent billions of dollars in recent years on thousands of new, more fuel efficient locomotives and on overhauling older units to make them more fuel efficient, while others have been retired.
For example, “Many new switching locomotives used to assemble and disassemble trains in rail yards are ‘genset’ (generator set) locomotives, which have two or three independent engines that switch on and off according to current power needs,” AAR points out. These engines are smaller and use antifreeze and auxiliary power units to facilitate rapid shutdowns and startup, even in cold weather, thereby reduce idling time.
Additionally, railroads are developing and deploying advanced computer applications that calculate the most fuel-efficient speed for a train over a given route, determine the most efficient spacing and timing of trains on a railroad’s system and monitor locomotive functions and performance to ensure peak efficiency.
Railroads also are expanding their use of distributed power by positioning locomotives throughout a line of rail cars to reduce the total horsepower required for movement, improving rail lubrication to reduce friction and wear on the track and on locomotives, and using low-torque bearings in rail cars to reduce weight and save fuel. Advanced defect detectors are being deployed to improve safety and efficiency by identifying poorly performing equipment.
Alternative fuels also are being investigated. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recently sponsored the Natural Gas as a Locomotive Fuel Workshop. The AAR is working with government and industry to review existing equipment and establish design standards for fuel tenders, hose, piping and other tender-locomotive interface connections.
Safety systems and interoperability also are being addressed. The AAR reports that in 2012, rail freight transport incurred only 15 percent as many accidents as trucks, per trillion ton-miles, and a lower injury rate than most other major industries including trucking, inland water transportation and airlines. The Federal Highway Administration predicts demand for rail to increase 62 percent from 2011 to 2040.
Marine Retrofits for Efficiency
In June 2012, in an effort to conserve fuel, reduce emissions and improve efficiency, ABS released the ABS Ship Energy Efficiency Measures Advisory to help shipping lines assess the options for vessel efficiency. The guide compares technologies and designs for new and retrofit ships, enabling designers to make informed decisions as they improve their fleets.
The Marine Environment Protection Committee of the International Maritime Organization, a UN agency, is developing energy efficiency regulations. It is promoting technical cooperation and technology transfer among the industry and, in particular, to developing nations, to further improve ship efficiency.
Such attention to environmental factors relates to efficiency, and the shipping lines are actively involved. Maersk, which has held the title of the world’s most reliable shipper for 13 consecutive quarters in Drewry’s Carrier Performance Insight, is a good example. In 2012, Maersk’s vessels emitted 10 percent less CO2 per container moved than the industry average. It achieved its 2020 goal of 25 percent CO2 reduction by 2012 and has raised its goal to 40 percent reduction.
“At Maersk, we focus first on operating more efficiently,” Kindberg says. Increasing efficiency reduces cost per container and, thus emissions. “Fuel accounts for more than half a vessel’s operating expense. Since 2007, we’ve reduced our fuel usage 25 percent per container per kilometer.”
To realize those improvements, Maersk redesigned its network and matched its vessels to its lanes for maximum efficiency. That means optimizing some vessels for specific regions, creating fleets specifically for South America and for West Africa, which has less developed ports and trade.
For further efficiency gains, the company also has reduced vessel speeds from 20 to 22 knots down to 14 to 18 knots, depending on the lane. It also sponsors competitions among ships’ chief engineers to see who can operate most efficiently. Additionally, Maersk is retrofitting existing ships, even going as far as giving some nose jobs — replacing the bulbous bows of some vessels with bows that are more efficient at slower speeds.
Maersk launched the world’s largest ship, the first of its new Triple E vessels, in mid-July 2013. Designed for energy, economy of scale and the environment, the Triple E vessels carry 18,000 TEUs — 3,000 more containers than the Emma class — and reduce CO2 emissions by 50 percent per container kilometer. The additional capacity is attributed to a change in the shape of the hull. Rather than a traditional “V” shape, the Triple E ships are more squared, and have two engines and two 9.6 meter propellers for much greater efficiency. (Other ships have one engine and one propeller.) They are designed to sail between Asia and Europe. A total of 10 Triple E ships are scheduled for delivery by July 2014.
In designing its ships, Maersk adheres to a cradle-to-cradle policy in which all construction materials and their locations in the ship are identified. Then, when the ship is disassembled approximately 40 years later, the operators know which type of steel, wiring and other components were used, so the ships can be disassembled safely, efficiently and with maximum value, Kindberg says.
Additionally, the company is working with sister company APM Terminals to develop port infrastructure remote areas, including the roads and rail entering the ports. In Africa, for example, the two teamed to build a terminal, have the port dredged and bring the local infrastructure to where it was needed. “This reduces waiting time for the ships,” Kindberg says. Maersk, a member of the World Ocean Council, also works with oceanographers studying ocean ecosystems the effects of vessel operations and reduced speeds in whale protection areas.
Sustainability is a concern not just at Maersk, but throughout the shipping industry, as other lines take actions to improve their own efficiency and environmental records. For example, APL has undertaken a fleet renewal project. Its 10,700 TEU ship, the APL Yangshan, was lauded by the Port Authority of Singapore as the Green Ship of the Year. It boasts and Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) that is 33 percent better than the International Maritime Organization’s EEDI reference line for ships of this type and size. Design features include an electronically-controlled main engine that consumes less fuel than conventional engines for corresponding loads while helping lower emissions. The vessel can connect to shore power while at berth to further reduce emissions, and incorporates an advanced ballast water treatment system to prevent the spread of invasive aquatic species.
Marine transportation is becoming an intermodal option, too. Even UPS, which uses sea transportation between continents, ran a demonstration project on the Thames during the London Olympics. “We see more movement in short sea shipping in Europe and Asia,” Kindberg says. “In the U.S., legal constraints make that more complex.” As an example of the complexity, she points to the Jones Act, which makes it illegal for foreign carriers to move cargo among American ports.
New Aircraft Improve Efficiency
Airlines carried approximately 46 million tons of freight in 2012 and accounted for about 12 percent of all transportation emissions and two percent of the manmade CO2 each year. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that figure will reach three percent in 2050. The industry is working to achieve neutral carbon growth by 2020 and a 50 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2050. In terms of efficiency, airlines burn less than three liters of fuel per 100 passenger kilometers, comparable to a small car, according to the Air Transport Action Group.
Led by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), airlines are investing in technology, improving operational efficiency, enhancing infrastructure efficiency and incentivizing environmental sustainability throughout their operations. For air cargo, the steps include measuring CO2 emissions, attenuating noise, banning certain night flights to reduce noise pollution and deploying lightweight unit load devices (ULDs) to reduce weight and thus use less fuel.
Research into second-generation aviation biofuels is ongoing. The greatest challenge is ensuring a stable, geographically-available supply, according to IATA’s Air Transport Action Group report. It notes that “Second-generation biofuels are virtually identical to A-1 jet fuel.”
The industry also is beginning work on gas/electric hybrid planes. Siemens and EADS (the parent corporation of Airbus) tested a plane that flew two people and their luggage 900 kilometers. Boeing is developing a hybrid plane the size of the 737 that will seat 150 passengers. Hybrid designs, however, are not expected to begin commercial service before 2030.
According to Leffin at UPS, “Much of the efficiency gains in air cargo come from new aircraft. UPS has designed a fleet strategy to improve fuel consumption by 40 percent between 2005 and 2020.” For example, Boeing says its 757 is 80 percent more fuel efficient than the older 727, but carries the same amount of cargo. Wide bodies, like the Boeing 767-400, are more efficient than narrow-body aircraft in terms of CO2 per ton mile. A look at specific planes shows the 767–400 ER gets a whopping 96 passenger miles per gallon. The Boeing 777-200ER wide-body, designed for intercontinental travel, gets 82 miles per gallon on a 3,000-mile trip and 76 miles per gallon on a 6,000 mile trip.