Date of Award

Fall 9-2014

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil and Environmental Engineering


Chris Hendrickson

Second Advisor

H. Scott Matthews


This dissertation examines the resiliency, efficiency, and environmental impact of barge shipments within the upper Ohio River basin, contrasting findings relevant to this region with assumptions and findings of broader national studies and providing alternative assessment methods. The unique attributes of this region’s inland waterways infrastructure and usage patterns are dominated by the shipment of coal; mines and powerplants with heavy and inflexible dependence on barge shipments; and the constrictions of the waterway infrastructure. Acknowledging these attributes allows for a more accurate assessment in the future of risks due to infrastructure failure and opportunities for efficiency gains. Research goals were set in three major areas: assessing the impact of an extended loss of commercial river navigation due to catastrophic infrastructure failure; assessing current and potential new efficiency metrics for inland waterways freight movement, both in terms of vessel movements and the infrastructure itself; and quantifying and assessing air emissions from regional commercial river traffic. The first research goal was to assess the impact of an extended loss of commercial river navigation due to catastrophic infrastructure failure. The objectives of this research goal were to develop a failure scenario; to develop methodologies to identify at-risk commodity shipments, feasible alternate modes of transportation, supply chain options, and shipping costs; and to develop a methodology to assess the potential closure of facilities impacted by infrastructure failure. A hypothetical failure scenario was assessed for a year-long closure of the Monongahela River between Charleroi and Elizabeth in 2010. For this scenario, the potentially displaced volume of coal shipments from mines to powerplants for a hypothetical river shutdown in 2010 was estimated at 7.0 million tons. The resilience of the impacted facilities, the feasibility of their shipping alternatives, and their ability to re-organize into new markets were assessed, showing heavy predicted impacts for facilities within the hypothetical failure zone, minimal impacts on facilities located below the failure zone, and mixed impacts above the failure zone that depend on facility-specific shipping mode alternatives. Lost revenues were estimated for facilities that close due to an inability to adapt, as well as the replacement cost of towboats and barges trapped by a catastrophic and sudden failure. The aggregate costs to these facilities as a result of a year-long closure in 2010 were estimated at $0.56-1.7 billion. The second research goal was to assess commonly used and potential new efficiency metrics for the inland waterways. Objectives of this goal included the development of methodologies to identify, characterize, and differentiate between vessel and commodity trips; to assess efficiency metrics currently used by USACE and develop improved metrics; and to conduct stochastic time studies of commodity trips to quantify efficiency gains from infrastructure improvements. The vessel and commodity trip analyses provide a unique assessment of the inefficiencies created by the infrastructure bottlenecks within the region. Data from USACE’s Lock Performance Monitoring System and the Energy Information Administration’s Survey 923 were used to characterize and rank the vessel and commodity trips made in 2010 in terms of frequency, tonnage, and ton-miles. Such rankings can be used to prioritize optimization projects and to assess usage patterns. The analyses of various efficiency measures commonly used for the inland waterways were conducted in light of the particular constraints of operation within the upper Ohio River basin. These upriver locks differ in size, requiring vessel operators to optimize the type and configuration of barges used within the region, and causing the regional profile to differ from fleet and flotilla profiles generated at a national level or for other regions. Consideration of these differences allows for more accurate analysis of usage patterns, with implications for efficiency considerations of time and fuel consumption. Stochastic modeling of historical usage patterns allows for the comparison of time requirements with different flotilla configurations and with different infrastructure configurations. A scenario analysis on a typical regional shipment between a coal mine and powerplant was used to demonstrate the method. Results show that completion of a long delayed lock reconstruction project will reduce the time required, and thus the cost and fuel, to move commodities across the region. The savings for a 15-jumbo barge tow moving 200 miles across the study area was estimated to be 17% as a result of completion of the Lower Mon Project. The third research goal was to quantify and assess the regional impact of commercial river traffic on air quality. The specific objectives of this goal were to develop a methodology for calculating emission loadings; and to develop a methodology to assess the impact of vessel emissions on regional air monitors. An estimation of particulate emissions from the vessels’ diesel engines is presented, showing total releases of PM2.5 to be about 360 tons in 2010 across 600 river miles of the upper Ohio River basin, on the same order of magnitude as the major point source releases reported in Allegheny County, and about 25% of releases from a typical 1,700 MW regional powerplant. A screening analysis estimates PM2.5 concentrations attributable from towboats passing through the Liberty-Clairton non-attainment region, predicting that these emission levels would be orders of magnitude below the detection limits of the region’s air monitors, and would be dwarfed by the point source impacting those monitors.