Stimulating Green in Long Beach
July 3, 2009 Leave a comment
Green technology and green living are nearly as popular in the world of buzz words as solving global hunger and “i-Everything.” Some cities take the topic more seriously. Looking at the Long Beach Press-Telegram on July 2nd, 2009, of four headlines, three dealt with green projects and green initiatives within the city and Port of Long Beach.
Long Beach is an important city, not only to the Los Angeles area, but also to the entire United States. With the adjacent Port of Los Angeles, Long Beach Port is the largest port facility in North America, and among the largest in the world. In addition, Long Beach sits on top of the Wilmington Oil Field, producing more than 15 million barrels of crude oil each year.
And yet, those of us who live in Long Beach find it one of the most exciting cities in the area, if not the country. Why? In addition to the urban renewal programs, Long Beach is a leader in green technologies and policies ranging from setting new global standards in the port, to world-renown desalination projects, to innovations in the Wilmington Oil Field that make an often maligned industry a source of pride for the city.
Cleaning the Ports
While the Port facilities may account for a large percentage of the pollutants covering the greater LA Basin, Long Beach is taking creative and positive steps to reduce the impact of container ships and diesel trucks on the environment.
Construction of the Alameda Corridor, a 20 mile largely underground train line connecting the port facilities to cargo distribution facilities in downtown Los Angeles (the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility), took hundreds of diesel trucks off the road, and further increased efficiency offloading and onloading cargo at the port. From the Los Angeles distribution center, cargo is further sent on to destinations throughout the United States and Canada, using much cleaner rail systems. Current development projects are focused on replacement of existing train locomotives with electric trains, further reducing the impact of container transfer in and out of the port.
Another recent innovation within the port of Long Beach is the new “Dockside Power System,” which allows ships visiting the port to plug into electrical systems provide at dockside power stations, allowing container ships to use electrical auxiliary power systems, rather than continuing to burn diesel while docked at port. The LA Times reports that “emissions reductions amount to 50%, even when factoring in pollution created by power plants in generating the electricity.”
Water Desalination Projects
The Long Beach Desalination project started in 1996 with a federal grant authorizing funding for construction of a pilot plant pumping 9000 gallons per day. With innovations patented by the Long Beach Water Department (invented by Diem Voung, Asst GM at the LBWD) called the “Long Beach Method,” the city has perfected a two stage nano-filtration process which reduces the amount of energy required to desalinate water by up to 30%.
Long Beach’s current desalination project called the “Long Beach Seawater Desalination Research & Development Facility” is the largest project of its kind in the United States, producing more than 300,000 gallons per day. The output from this facility will reduce the city of Long Beach’s need for Colorado River water by more than 15%.
To be honest, there are many other desalination projects in cities lining the coast, including Huntington Beach, San Diego, Oxnard, and others. However Long Beach has provided, and will continue to provide, strong leadership in global desalination initiatives.
Of the “green” headlines in the LB Press-Telegram mentioned above, one story does discuss a grant of nearly $3,000,000 in stimulus funds to further develop Long Beach’s desalination technology and innovations.
Another great project within the city is the use of reclaimed water. In 2008 Long Beach provided more than 1.5 billion gallons of reclaimed or non-potable water to various users for both landscaping, as well as “grey” water usage in air conditioning systems used within commercial properties.
The reclaimed water project is using water from many different sources, including water runoff from storms, barrier water from the Los Angeles River, and other waste water which would normally run into the Pacific Ocean.
The Wilmington Oil Field
There is no real way to have a completely clean environment when you are dealing with oil. Not only the waste surrounding drilling and pumping oil, but also the process of refining oil creates a tremendous environmental mess. The area starting in Long Beach, and passing through Carson to El Segundo supply much of the refined oil used by California drivers, and drivers in surrounding states.
Until we, as a culture, further embrace transportation which does not require the use of fossil fuels, we will not have a clean environment. The one concession Long Beach has made to reducing the negative impact of pumping oil from the rich Wilmington Oil Field, which underlies much of the area from San Pedro to Seal Beach, is some beautification of the oil pumping islands in San Pedro Bay.
The photo on the top of this page shows Island Grissom near the Shoreline Drive area of Long Beach, in sharp contrast to the historic photo immediately above showing the old Long Beach and Signal Hill of past, when the priority was drilling at any cost. The Honolulu Advertiser has mentioned the efforts to produce a more pleasing façade to the oil field as a “prime example of the aesthetic mitigation of technology.”
There are four offshore islands, operated by THUMS (originally named for a consortium consisting of Texaco, Humble, Union, Mobil and Shell — T.H.U.M.S.) are named after astronauts who died in NASA accidents (Freeman, Chaffee, White, and Grissom), and are about 10 acres apiece. From these island drilling platforms, constructed in the 1960s and 70s, more than 1200 oil wells have been placed. (AAPG Explorer)
To its credit, THUMS has never recorded a major oil leak or spill, and claims that “in addition to investing millions of dollars to install pollution limiting equipment throughout our operations, we are working to help meet California’s energy needs by developing a long term supply of clean burning natural gas.” (Frank Komin, THUMS facility Manager)
The Reality and the Future
While the Long Beach Port area continues to be a major source of pollutants in the LA Basin, the city and community continue to push Long Beach to be a leader in not only solving the local problems of a damaged environment, but also use creativity and technology to produce a better future for Long Beach and the world. Of particular note, the desalination projects within Long Beach are a major source of community pride.