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  • Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority

Biodiesel to help Port of Detroit improve air quality, decarbonize

Photo: Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority

The Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority in Michigan revealed details on Earth Day (April 22) of an ambitious program to dramatically improve air quality and the health of residents by cutting carbon emissions to net zero by 2040.


Working with technical experts from 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 percent of global emissions, and it’s growing,” said Mark Schrupp, executive director of the port authority. “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.”


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,” Garcia said. “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.


“We have been pleasantly surprised by the way the business community has gotten behind the plan,” Moorcroft said. “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 emissions 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.


“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,” said Jonathan C. Kinloch, the chairman of the port authority and Wayne County commissioner. “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 the course for us to follow.”


For the full executive summary, click here.



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