With next week’s arrival of an ocean-going cargo vessel at the Port of Houston Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency will conclude the data-gathering phase of a study on using lower sulfur marine fuels to reduce air pollution in the Gulf of Mexico. The study will collect stack emissions monitoring data before, after and during the use of lower sulfur fuels on the vessel.
“This is the first time EPA will have emissions data gathered directly from a commercial cargo ship operating in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Michelle DePass, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs. “Policy makers in the U.S. and Mexico will soon have Gulf-specific emissions data to show reductions achieved from burning lower-sulfur fuels near land in U.S. and Mexican waters. This showcases a practice that will help the international shipping industry meet forthcoming standards.”
Beginning in August 2012, stringent international standards will require that lower sulfur fuels be used by ships operating within up to 200 nautical miles of the majority of the U.S. and Canadian Atlantic and Pacific coastal waters, as well as the U.S. Gulf Coast.
EPA expects these international standards to bring important benefits for human health through combustion of significantly lower sulfur fuels. Atmospheric reactions convert sulfur dioxide emissions, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, to sulfate particles, which are a significant threat to public health and marine and terrestrial ecosystems.
“By 2020, EPA estimates that tougher standards on diesel-powered ocean vessels will prevent 14,000 premature deaths and help relieve respiratory symptoms for nearly five million people each year in the United States and Canada”, said Gina McCarthy, EPA assistant administrator for Air and Radiation. “In the U.S. alone, they will provide more than $110 billion in health-related benefits by 2020.”
“The Port of Houston Authority is proud of its support and financial contributions to this important EPA study,” said Charlie Jenkins, vice president of strategic planning for the Port of Houston Authority. “The collection of emissions data from the Hamburg Süd vessel will be an important step to demonstrate fuel switching and show its emission reduction potential for all ocean-going vessels traveling the Gulf of Mexico.”
“The Port of Houston Authority has continued to show leadership in reducing diesel air pollution from its on-site operation and truck traffic to and from its shipping terminals,” said EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz. “Their leadership in collecting much needed scientific data on the actual emissions from cargo ships is invaluable and demonstrates their commitment to ‘greening’ Port operations across the country.”
The study is the result of a partnership between the EPA, the Port of Houston Authority, the Mexican federal government and Hamburg Süd, a German-based shipping company. Additionally, ICF International and the University of California-Riverside are managing the technical elements of the program, including the emission measurements.
“We at Hamburg Süd are proud to help pioneer a new era of responsible marine environmental stewardship,” said Rainer Dehe, Director Operations, Hamburg Süd North America, Inc.