Navigant Research Blog

Increased Safety at Ports through Smart Technologies

— September 1, 2015

Massive explosions killed at least 114 people and injured over 700 in early August at the Port of Tianjin in China. Tianjin is located close to Beijing and is one of China’s most important oil and gas terminals. It also serves as a key entry point for iron ore, vital to the enormous steel making industry in China. While the cause of the explosions are not yet clear, it is interesting to question whether this accident could have been prevented through the use of smart technologies. Technologies such as petrochemical air pollution sensors and wireless mesh networks could have potentially been helpful in detecting potential hazards such as early fires (which may have led to the explosions) or a gas leak.

Smart Technology Port Applications

Ports in China would be far from the first to adopt smart technologies for safety purposes. Wireless mesh networks are currently being used in marine and safety applications in North America at the NY Waterway. This network provides a security solution with a coverage area spanning nearly all the waterways that surround Manhattan. The NY Waterway uses the high-speed wireless network to improve communications, emergency response, and preparedness throughout all ports and ferries in the organization’s fleet. Hundreds of Interlogix IP and analog cameras are being used and are connected through Fluidmesh’s Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)-based wireless mesh network.

Increased Safety through Energy Efficiency

Smart technologies can also make port operations safer by making them more energy efficient. The Port of Hamburg, which takes in roughly 10,000 ships per year, recently computerized its loading systems to synchronize offloading and reduce traffic jams that were causing very high concentrations of diesel emissions. Integrated Truck Guidance systems from companies such as Siemens can track and guide trucks that are close to the port (within 10-15 miles) to assigned spaces or allocate each truck to alternative spaces if the originally assigned space is not open. This system can reduce traffic congestion and unnecessary idling at ports by making parking and cargo pickup routes more efficient—thus reducing harmful air pollution.

While it’s impossible to know for sure whether a connected sensor network could have prevented the explosions at the Tianjin port, perhaps operators could have taken some preventative action if they were given a chance to respond to the events before it became an uncontrollable situation. The inherent security and operational issues regarding ports and ships make this industry a prime candidate for smart technologies.

For more information on the use of smart technologies in port operations, see Navigant Research’s report Energy-Efficient Port Operations, which analyzes the market for shore power technology and natural gas drayage trucks.


We’re Asking the Wrong Question about Electrification

— September 1, 2015

At the recent Fleet Technology Expo in Long Beach, California, Tesla Motors’ co-founder and founder of Wrightspeed, Ian Wright, delivered a keynote to the gathering of fleet managers, suppliers, and consultants that turned the conventional wisdom of vehicle electrification on its ear. While mandates like the California Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program and various federal and state tax incentives seek to displace millions of fossil fuel-burning vehicles with electric equivalents, Wright says we’re asking entirely the wrong question. Rather than asking how to maximize the efficiency of the mass of vehicles, Wright said we should be asking: “How do we save the most fuel per vehicle per year?”

On the surface, those might seem like the same question. However, when you actually start doing the math, the resulting answer is quite different. Vehicle emissions, including CO2, are directly related to how much fuel is consumed. Unfortunately, most people tend to think of efficiency in miles per gallon (mpg). When we plot fuel consumed versus mpg, the consumption curve asymptotically approaches zero as mileage goes up. In fact, the curve of incremental fuel savings flattens out dramatically at about 35–40 mpg. Beyond that, increasing mileage comes at a very high cost with little to actually show for it in terms of reductions in total energy use and emissions.

The big gains come when you start from very low mpg, where each incremental improvement yields much larger reductions in fuel consumption. That’s where Wright has focused his efforts in recent years. Wright joined Tesla co-founders Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning and financial backer Elon Musk early on in 2003 to help the tech entrepreneurs with the technical aspects of actually building a car. While Wright left Tesla long before the Roadster finally went to customers in 2008, he continued working on electrification.

Different Solutions for Different Applications

Wrightspeed has developed a micro-turbine, range-extended powertrain system for medium and heavy duty trucks, the vehicles with the biggest potential for fuel savings because they use the most fuel. These big trucks typically only achieve 3–4 mpg running on diesel and even less on natural gas. While the Nissan LEAF or Chevrolet Volt can save individual owners hundreds of dollars a year in fuel compared to similar gasoline-fueled models, the actual amount of fuel saved is relatively small.

A refuse truck is an ideal application for hybridization since it operates at relatively low speeds and makes hundreds of stops and starts per day. In order to get the 130–150-mile range needed for its daily rounds, a fully electric version would need to carry so many batteries it would consume more than half its payload; however, a plug-in hybrid with 30 miles of electric range is entirely viable. Wrightspeed developed its geared traction drive, a 250 hp unit that integrates a traction motor, two-speed gearbox, and inverter, to provide propulsion and regenerative braking. In combination with a small 80 kW turbine range extender sized to run at its optimal efficiency, Wright claims the system delivers a 50% reduction in fuel consumption, saving $35,000 in fuel and $20,000 in maintenance per vehicle annually with a 3–4-year payback time.

Navigant Research’s Automotive Fuel Efficiency Technologies report projects that a wide variety of solutions will be required to meet future efficiency and emissions targets. In order to get the maximum overall benefit, we need to ask Wright’s question and pick the best solution for each application—not one solution for every application.


Software and Services to Deepen the Benefits of Factory Energy Management

— September 1, 2015

The manufacturing sector is realizing the opportunity to generate impressive financial savings with energy efficiency. Recently, the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) released a series of case studies showcasing the benefits of energy efficiency investments, including an example from a lab at the University of Minnesota and an Ohio factory. From retrocommissioning to equipment retrofits, factory owners are realizing significant improvements to their bottom lines through investment in energy efficiency measures. An upcoming Navigant Research report on industrial energy management systems (IEMSs) finds that a growing market for software and services can help industrial customers expand the opportunity for energy efficiency benefits with solutions for measuring, monitoring, and predicting the impact of operational and equipment changes.

IEMSs are defined by software and services offered to reduce energy use and costs while meeting the operational requirements of the facility’s business. These solutions provide site-level insights on equipment and operational performance and enterprisewide perspectives for continuous business improvement.  Industrial customers can leverage an IEMS as a cost-effective tool for internal transparency on energy consumption and analytics to support strategic changes in energy use for regulatory or corporate policy compliance.

Energy Management as a Differentiator

When oil prices continue to drive downward to historic lows, the question of why manufacturers would care about energy efficiency is a logical one. The fact is that energy efficiency still has a real and significant business value for the industrial sector. Executives in charge of industrial facilities are becoming more aware of the benefits of strategic energy management as a competitive differentiator and source of opportunity for business improvement. These customers are demanding more integrated systems in terms of operations and enterprise IT that utilize granular equipment and operations data for predictive maintenance and optimization of equipment and operations. IEMSs are becoming the go-to solution for leveraging data to deliver economic and business benefits.

The IMT case study from the University of Minnesota illustrated how organizational commitments can drive interest in efficiency. The university’s senior energy auditor explained, “We implement energy conservation projects as a key component of the University’s sustainability goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.” In Ohio at the Tusco Display factory case study, the company CEO explains how real benefit of energy efficiency is that economic and sustainability benefits go hand in hand: “Over the last 10 years, we have increased both production and per person productivity while cutting energy usage by 41 percent. We will continue to invest in energy efficiency because it’s good stewardship with a long-term, positive impact on our bottom line, too.”

Watch for our new Industrial Energy Management Systems report, coming soon!


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