Port NOLA and Tulane Energy Institute

This semester approximately half of the Management in Energy class chose Energy Group Projects as their elective. In the beginning of the semester, we were selected to continue the report on the use of LNG specifically for long-haul trucking applications. We have worked closely with our corporate sponsor, Pivotal LNG, a subsidiary of AGL Resources, who has provided us with a real cradle-to-grave customer acquisition project. Pivotal LNG has given us some unique experience and insight as to what trends are happening in the LNG industry right now (noted in our recent post Beyond the Classroom – LNG Trucking Project). During this conference, we were able to network with the commercial manager at the Port of New Orleans, who invited us on the following field trip.

Our group drove down Tchoupitoulas Street Thursday morning and turned into a trucking line that took us to the “gate check” and then behind the floodwall. The floodwall is in place because Tchoupitoulas is the through street closest to the Mississippi River and New Orleans is naturally susceptible to floods during hurricane season, which runs from June 1- November 30. Behind the wall, we were exposed to all the inner workings of the port. Once inside, the individual we had met at the HHP summit invited us into the corporate office and then drove us around the port in one of their company cars.

The main benefit of using Port NOLA is its inland connectivity. We learned that having all six Class I rail lines serving a port is a rare luxury. The interstate highway system and access to several major waterways via the Mississippi River add to the intermodal access. Storage is not much of a problem with over 3.1 million square feet of covered warehouses on site. While driving through the storage facilities, we were able to see metal boxes full of raw rubber (the number one imported commodity for Port NOLA) for major tire manufacturing companies.

As we passed under the gantry cranes, we drove as if we were a truck lining up to have a storage container unloaded off or loaded onto the truck trailer from a cargo ship. The operator of the crane has a computer program telling him which containers to pick up and move. There are several lanes underneath each crane and lights tell the driver where to stop similar to a drive through car wash. The operator can efficiently move about 35 containers per hour. Rail lines run underneath the gantry cranes, which allow them to move along the length of the port. Gantry cranes at this port are mostly powered by diesel however; two of the cranes are electric and plug into the power grid. Next we headed in the direction of the outdoor storage where containers are strategically stacked to distribute the weight load.

Toward the end of the tour we saw a top loader in action as it rearranged the refrigerated storage containers used to import bananas. These mega forklifts make the more common sized forklifts seen in wholesale warehouses and home improvement stores look like toys. It headed toward our compact sized car but we managed to safely maneuver around the top loader. As we exited to the other side of the floodwall, the Folgers Coffee Warehouse was in front of us on the left. Coffee is the second largest imported commodity for the Port of New Orleans, so it makes sense to have a facility near the site instead of paying large transportation costs to move the product somewhere else.

The knowledge gained from this experience was great. Not only did we learn about the commodities that the Port of New Orleans imports and exports, but we were also able to see and understand their logistics. Their views on adopting alternative fuel sources are open contingent on the development of availability and infrastructure. Our plan is to develop an industry overview of marine vessels using LNG as a fuel next semester. When looking at the Port of New Orleans, it appears there are several opportunities to study the energy sources associated with their operations.

Tyler Goldich and Stuart Kenney

Master of Management in Energy Candidates 2015