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March 28, 2018   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Work Boats Working for Clean Air

More clean air benefits will accrue to port communities by replacing older and larger engines with new clean diesel models.


Port leaders around the country are responding to the need to reduce emissions for their surrounding communities. When it comes to reducing the most emissions quickly, nothing gets the job done faster and cheaper then replacing old diesel engines with the latest generation clean models. In fact, the bigger the engine, the bigger the reductions. Ports in the Pacific Northwest have discovered this by replacing old engines that power large tug boats.

Port leaders in the Pacific Northwest understand that when it comes to reducing emissions for near-port communities, replacing big engines with latest clean diesel technologies will deliver significant benefits. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, working with the U.S. Maritime Administration, replaced older engines that power a variety of marine workboats including tug boats that operate in the region with new clean diesel technology. One of those projects involved a series of engine replacements for the Island Eagle.

When the Island Eagle entered service in 1982, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” hit the airwaves. That was a long time ago, before U.S. EPA even required emission controls for the vessel’s three engines. Fast forward 35 years, and new large marine clean diesel engines that power workboats are near-zero in emissions. Replacing these old engines with the latest clean diesel technologies can reduce emissions  of smog forming compounds called oxides of nitrogen (NOx) by 88 percent. 

Tug Boat Reductions

With help from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and additional funds from the U.S. Maritime Administration, the operator of the Island Eagle was able to replace the vessel’s two propulsion engines with Tier 3 models and its auxiliary engine with a Tier 4 model.  In doing so, the project delivered 3.2 tons of NOx emission reductions immediately to near-port communities.  While these new engines are much lower in emissions they are also much more efficient than their “Thriller”-era models and have saved the operator 45,000 gallons of fuel each year resulting in over 1,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. 

All of these emission reductions and fuel savings were delivered for a total cost of only $225,000. While almost a quarter-of-a-million dollars is a lot of funds, when it comes to reducing emissions these types of projects are the most cost effective for public agencies looking to maximize clean air investments.  For a fixed investment, more emissions can be reduced by replacing these older engines, including those in marine workboats, with the latest clean diesel models.

States around the country will soon have access to $2.9 billion through the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust to reduce NOx emissions. Recent research commissioned jointly by the Diesel Technology Forum and the Environmental Defense Fund concluded that replacing older large engines that power marine vessels, ferry boats and switch locomotives are one of the most cost effective strategies to stretch clean air investments to deliver the most emission reductions. For a fixed investment, more benefits will accrue to port communities by replacing older and larger engines with new clean diesel models. On average, replacing older tug boat engines with new clean diesel models is equivalent to eliminating the emissions generated by over 26,000 cars.

Learn more about clean diesel benefits to states through the Environmental Mitigation Trust and the benefits of replacing larger engines.

VW_Tier4Diesel_Infographic_Switch_Final VW_Tier4Diesel_Infographic_Tug_Final



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Key Contact

Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy
efinkin@dieselforum.org
301-668-7230

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