In south Louisiana, U.S., maritime vessels docked port side can now plug into the electric grid rather than continuously burning diesel oil. Through shore power electrification, Entergy Services LLC’s innovation center — KeyString Labs — is working to scale shore power services in the Gulf South as a beneficial utility-led electrification initiative.
Nationwide, electric utilities are expanding to offer electricity to marine vessels through shore power electrification to help their customers protect the environment through lower carbon emissions. In Louisiana, applying shore power to marine vessels in Entergy Louisiana’s footprint can reduce as much as 98% of nitrogen oxides, 48% of sulfur oxides and 42% of carbon emissions from vessels, estimated by comparing the emissions rate of marine diesel oil vs. Entergy’s at-the-plug emissions rate.
Grid power provided by Entergy Louisiana is competitive with, or even less expensive than, marine diesel oil as a fuel source. Marine vessels powered by the grid, rather than by an auxiliary engine, also create less noise pollution. In addition, because their engines run less often, these vessels require less maintenance.
Diving into the Market
In early 2020, Entergy Louisiana, which provides electric service to more than 1 million customers across the state, wrapped up its first shore power installation project at Port Fourchon, a south Louisiana port servicing more than 90% of the offshore oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico. With 20% of the nation’s oil supply flowing through the pipelines in this area, this port serves a critical role in not only South Louisiana but also the nation. Nearly 100% of all deepwater offshore energy activity in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico takes place in this port.
Traditionally, maritime vessels must run their auxiliary engines while docked at port. By the customer retrofitting the vessels to accept electricity from an outside source, utilities can enable their customers to run on grid power. If they are not equipped with the ability to receive grid power initially, companies can dry-dock the ship and retrofit the electrical system to receive power from an outside source directly into the ship’s electrical bus.
Utilities can create an individual powering station for each customer, similar to having a charging station in a parking lot for an electric vehicle. At Port Fourchon, however, Entergy Louisiana created a mini parking lot for grid-enabled maritime vessels owned by Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO), a marine transportation company. ECO contacted Entergy to develop this innovation that had not been applied at this scale in the Gulf South. Entergy worked with ECO on concept and design. Today, approximately 10 platform supply vessels measuring up to 160 m (525 ft) in length can now dock port side and accept grid power from Entergy before traveling back out to sea to deliver supplies and provide services for Louisiana’s offshore oil and gas platforms.
Building Out Infrastructure
Before providing electric service, Entergy first had to extend the existing power line and infrastructure to ECO’s operations near the shore. The crews first extended the 13.8-V distribution line an additional eight spans from the distribution feeder to a terminal pole. The distribution construction crews then ran the conduit underground up to a platform, where they installed five platforms 14 ft (4.3 m) above the ground with each having a 750-kV transformer. These transformers stepped down the voltage from 13.8 kV to 440 V, and they leverage tap changers to maintain the required voltage consistency. Next, the grid-powered electricity flows into a shore power unit, and the ship’s engineer plugs a special extension cord into the electrical bus of the ship.
To switch it from marine-diesel oil powered to grid powered, the ship’s engineer signals the vessel’s onboard equipment to stop receiving power from the engine and start receiving it from the grid, just like a hybrid vehicle. Because the vessels are using grid power, they no longer need to make their own power at the port—driving down carbon emissions at the port and in the surrounding community.
Before getting the new shore power units up and running for its customer, Entergy first had to run a few tests. For example, the utility’s engineers ran a power quality test to ensure the voltage remained consistent during motor starts, as there are numerous local pulls on the distribution system in this area.
After successfully completing its first maritime electrification project, Entergy learned best practices it can apply on future such projects. For example, traditionally, linemen install pad-mount transformers on a concrete pad. However, on the ECO project, Entergy had to develop a lift plan to elevate five transformers onto specialized platforms at the edge of the water. The utility also had to expand its distribution standards to accommodate this permitting requirement for shore power electrification.
Another lesson learned was to align the design and construction teams early in the project scoping phase. Unlike other types of utility projects, shore power electrification projects must require right-of-way access to be on the customer’s property for the distribution line extension, especially in the case of commercial and residential customers who typically receive utility primary service at the edge of property. As such, both the design and construction teams must be involved in the discussions early on in the project. While Entergy’s distribution design group is responsible for performing the engineering services, the construction team must build out the extension of the line and, therefore, be aware of the plan before the start of the project, so proper resources and equipment can be sourced and readily available.
Like several companies in the Gulf South, ECO had been using smaller shore power applications in its vessels for years. The task of transitioning from small-scale electrification to powering an entire vessel by the grid required partnership, sharing expertise across industries, and testing applications to ensure the power could be provided safely and without negatively impacting other customers or onboard technology for shore power-enabled vessels. This customer-utility partnership creates an opportunity for ongoing cross-industry knowledge sharing as it relates to best practices in areas such as project implementation, planning and efficiency.
“ECO and Entergy worked closely together each step of the way, from design to testing to construction and commissioning. Partnering with Entergy from the outset was critical in achieving this level of reliance on the electric grid when our vessels are in port,” said Reggie Ougel, manager of special projects for ECO. Beneficial electrification is an example of Entergy delivering value to our customers in new ways. Leveraging our generation sources and utility framework has enabled our customers to create untapped value within their operations, which provides benefits for our customers, their value chain and society at large.
Entergy Louisiana’s investments in carbon-free nuclear generation, highly efficient natural gas generation and renewable generation make the utility’s generation fleet one of the cleanest in the U.S. Entergy has invested significant capital over the last decade to modernize its power generation portfolio, ensuring that efficient, cleaner technologies provide customers with a balance of low-cost, more sustainable electricity.
The emissions impact of shore power is tied directly to the source generation of the electricity powering this application. The emissions reductions as a result of Entergy’s shore power offering compounds the environmental benefits of the utility’s investments in cleaner generation technologies.
Looking forward, Entergy is pursuing other opportunities in the maritime electrification industry. For example, the utility is working on a project in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and also has projects at the Ports of Beaumont and Orange in Texas. With seven of the country’s top 20 ports located in Entergy’s service territory — Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas — the utility is exploring opportunities with customers to bring beneficial electrification technology to other ports and industries in its region.
The cruise ship industry also offers opportunities for maritime electrification. For example, a mandate in Alaska and California requires vessels to plug into grid power while at port. At this point in time, the maritime electrification projects often stem from customer requests to utilities. Because of its location near the Gulf of Mexico and ability to provide reasonably priced power, Entergy plans to pursue this business opportunity going forward through its utility operating companies.
Michael Cross is the vice president of innovation for Entergy Services LLC, building new products and services to enable the utility. He leads the KeyString Labs group in reimagining the future of the industry and bringing new ideas to life through focusing on customer needs. Prior to joining Entergy in 2019, he was responsible for digital transformation and innovation for six years at AAA Insurance, which covers 23 states.
Darryl Richard is the innovation architect and leader of the beneficial electrification focus area for Entergy’s KeyString Labs. With prior responsibilities within Entergy’s grid modernization and utility automation areas, he has applied experience from performance management, financial planning and regulatory strategy into the beneficial electrification offerings. He graduated with high honors from the Georgia Institute of Technology as a four-year football letter winner, all-conference player and team captain. A former National Football League defensive lineman, he also holds a MBA degree from Georgia Tech.