Michael DiBernardo on Integrating Hydrogen Fuel Cells into POLA

Michael DiBernardo

A Japan-California Hydrogen online Webinar in early February was hosted by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California.  The event’s goal: to connect California organizations with the Japanese government and Japanese companies working in the hydrogen space. Presentations focus on the California Hydrogen Hub project and include remarks by key stakeholders in California and presentations by the Japanese government and Japanese companies in the field. VX News here shares a transcript of the remarks of Michael DiBernardo, POLA’s deputy Executive of Marketing and Customer Relations.

Panel Introduction by Marianna Grossman, Sr. Consultant, USAsia Venture Partners:

Now introducing, Michael DiBernardo. He is the Deputy Executive Director of Marketing and Customer Relations at the Port of Los Angeles, the nation's leading container port. In this role, he oversees the port's cargo, marketing, industrial real estate, waterfront commercial real estate, environmental management, planning, and strategy, and is responsible for keeping up the wharf. Michael DiBernardo has served the port in various roles since his early career. In between, he worked for the American President's Line for 19 years, where he served in various management positions such as marketing operations, customer service, transportation, and logistics. His expertise encompasses cargo logistics, cargo operations, transportation, intermodal, customer service, port-related real estate marketing, planning, and negotiations.

Mr. Michael DiBernardo holds a bachelor's degree in Business Administration from California State University Dominguez Hills, and an executive management certificate from the University of California, Los Angeles. With a clear knowledge of the port’s business inside and out, we're delighted to have you talk about recent hydrogen activities at the Port of Los Angeles.

Michael DiBernardo, POLA

Thank you, Mariana. I'm very happy to be here today with you folks, and good morning as well as good afternoon to everybody online. Thank you for inviting the Port of Los Angeles to speak today.

I'm going to give you a little bit of insight as we're very excited about hydrogen fuel cells and we'd like to see them evolve and be integrated into the port environment as we move forward. As you know, the Port of Los Angeles is the largest port complex in North America. We have five major sources of emissions that come in from the port; they can come from ships, trucks, handling equipment in the terminals, as well as locomotives and harbor crafts.

We have a Clean-air Action Plan with the Port of Long Beach, that looks at how we can reach milestones within the port complex. By the year 2030, we're hoping that all our terminals can reach zero emissions with their terminal equipment operations. By the year 2035, we have another goal for every classic truck that comes and visits the ports to be zero emission as well. Hydrogen is going to be one of the several strategies to achieve these goals.

As I mentioned, we're looking at how the port can implement hydrogen, and we can look at cargo handling equipment, which is the UTRs, as well as top handlers, rubber tire gantry cranes, and even in the harbor craft, whether we're doing tugs, or ferries to and from Catalina Island, crew boats are looking at technology for that-- for those types of applications. In addition, we are looking at on-road drayage trucks, considering their distribution and shore power capabilities, and even microgrids. We’re also looking at how hydrogen can apply to our F-switch and line haul locomotives which come visit the port, move trains in and around the port complex, and go beyond the port. Then eventually, we might see it in ocean-going vessels as a means to getting to zero emission.

This shows you where the demands for hydrogen are: where we're at today, and how we see it evolving. Soon, there will be huge growth in applications for ocean vessels, freight transportation, as well as for trucks. We see a big demand, both in and near the port for where hydrogen can play a part in our applications.

Here we have the first iterations of it. Back in 2016, we had the hydrogen fuel cell classic trucks and we were doing demonstrations. You can see the number that we have out there.

Early on, we had 6 of those trucks, then 2 in 2017, and in 2018, up to 10 with Toyota and Kenworth. Toyota was a great partner in 2019 and 2020. We hope and expect about 1600 trucks for height from Hyundai in the years 2020 to 2025. Again, there are big applications for on-road trucks where we see the biggest demand and need because of the distance that trucks have to travel from the port to their distribution centers.

(Shows Slides)

This is a picture of one of the hydrogen fuel cell stations in Wilmington that's offered by Shell Oil Company, in partnership with Kenworth and Toyota on our Zanza project. We plan on doing a demonstration.

This is one of the hydrogen fuel cell top handlers that we have at Phoenix Marine Terminal, one of our marine terminals at the Port of Los Angeles. This was deployed back in 2022 and again, it's a hydrogen fuel cell top handler.

This shows you the next generation of vehicles that's coming out. This one’s dominated by the fuel cell-- the other one was battery. This fuel cell-dominant one is also coming out to the Phoenix Marine Terminal.

This is a hydrogen fuel cell UTR-- we call them utility tractors or yard trucks. They're used in the terminals to move containers around within the port complex. These do not go out onto the street; they stay within the port. This was deployed in 2019 at the Phoenix Facility and Phoenix Green is a subsidiary of CMA, one of the ocean shipping lines at the Port of Los Angeles.

Now, we're moving on to the rubber tire gantry cranes. Here we have Seiko working with YTI, Yusen Terminals. We're expecting this unit to come out as part of the needle grant, where this is going to be used for a rubber tire gantry crane. The benefit is that if this were electric, you would need cords plugging into the ground. In this case, you're using it as a substitute for diesel fuel, and it's very movable throughout the port-- you can move it into different areas within the terminal, and we're going to be seeing these cranes coming in this month at YTI.

In addition, part of that grant is going to be getting high fuel cell UTRs, as well as a fuel cell top handler and mobile fuel truck. We're seeing multiple applications here both on the RTG, UTR, and the top handler. We’re hoping that these applications work because the infrastructure for these types of units is very similar to diesel, and it's not as expensive as having to put in underground infrastructure for EV car charging stations.

This gives you a little picture of the fuel cell storage they have at the Phoenix Marine Facility as you can see where they have segregation and so forth within their warehouse to store this type of fuel product.

This is their fueling system that's also used at Phoenix Marine. They're fueling their yard equipment using this sort of apparatus within their terminal, so it's mobile fueling. As we get to a higher demand, we'll look at it as an odd source at the terminal or continue with the mobile fuel source.

So, we thank ARCHES as they're working on getting the 1.2-billion-dollar grant for the State of California, and we're going to get a piece of it here. With that grant, we're looking to bring 40 to 50 pieces of cargo-handling equipment to multiple terminals at our port. As we mentioned in this presentation, we have another four other terminals that can use this application.

The fuel cell equipment is being supported by the ILWU, which is our labor force here at the port. The marine terminal operators are also getting the next generation of training on how they can repair this type of equipment. We're working with them to create a training center where we have the tools and knowledge to repair this type of equipment.

For future deployments, we're looking towards more funding for other activities. There's the potential of 3,200 pieces of yard current handling equipment that could be used for hydrogen fuel cells and again, the terminals are looking at multiple applications. They're looking at hydrogen fuel cells, for that flexibility, but also consider certain battery electric applications. Perhaps some of the utility trucks that move around the terminals, pickup trucks, and things of that nature can be made battery-electric, but hydrogen fuel cells for the bigger pieces of equipment as equivalent to diesel.

We think that this provides a great opportunity for longshore labor, has a community impact of zero emissions, and creates great-paying jobs both at the port and around the surrounding communities. As mentioned, we’re getting a 150 million grant at the port, looking at these types of applications you see on this slide. We're also going to match it with 155 million of our own dollars, with that money coming from various sources from the port to supplement the grant that we're receiving for this hydrogen hub. We’re very excited about it.

There are challenges, although we wish it could all be super easy. We have some work that we have to do; both maintaining customer confidence and making sure that the regulatory agencies can embrace this type of fuel source coming into the port. Working with the supply, and as the biggest thing for Southern California, it will have to be green. We'll be looking for green hydrogen, which has an impact on the cost components of it. However, we are working on ways to achieve that, and we're looking at various things to make this acceptable to the community.

We also have some environmental groups that we need to work with to ensure they embrace our integration of hydrogen. As I said, we’re also working with the workforce to train them and so forth. While there’s a lot of work that we still need to do, we've done it with the Phoenix Marine team and now with YTI. We’ve made sure that the fire department is aware of this commodity coming in, and this type of equipment being in use, and figured out the support as we move forward with that.

With that, that gives you an overview of what's going on in the Port of Los Angeles. Thank you for having us here and I’m happy to answer any questions that may come about from the group. Again, thank you.

"There are challenges, although we wish it could all be super easy. We have some work that we have to do; both maintaining customer confidence and making sure that the regulatory agencies can embrace this type of fuel source coming into the port." - Michael DiBernardo