Hydrogen Fuel Cells May Power Seaports

MarineLink.com
Thursday, June 27, 2013
Sandia National Laboratories researcher Joe Pratt stands near the Port of Oakland, one of the west coast ports he studied to learn whether hydrogen fuel cells are a viable power source for docked ships. (Photo by Steffan Schulz)

Providing auxiliary hydrogen power to docked or anchored ships may soon be added to the list of ways in which hydrogen fuel cells can provide efficient, emissions-free energy.

Hydrogen fuel cells are already powering mobile lighting systems, forklifts, emergency backup systems and light-duty trucks, among other applications. Now, researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have found that hydrogen fuel cells may be both technically feasible and commercially attractive as a clean, quiet and efficient power source for ships at berth, replacing on-board diesel generators.

The Sandia study was completed for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

Auxiliary power to docked ships, usually provided by on-board diesel engines, is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, accounting for one-third to one-half of the in-port emissions attributed to ocean-going vessels. According to a 2004 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, average daily emissions for a busy port could exceed the total emissions from nearly 500,000 vehicles.

Evaluating fuel cell barges at western U.S. ports

The study evaluated a simple fuel cell strategy that consists of mounting a hydrogen-fueled proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell on a floating barge. Supplying a container ship with average power and run times (1.4 megawatts over 48 hours) requires four 40-ft containers, two for the fuel cell and two for hydrogen fuel storage, which could readily fit on a typical flat-top barge. For ships requiring less power, such as tugboats, a single container housing both the fuel cell and hydrogen will suffice, according to the Sandia study.

To evaluate the feasibility of the fuel cell barge strategy and analyze potential deployment options, Sandia’s Joe Pratt visited ports up and down the West Coast and in Hawaii. He gathered data from two U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration facilities and the ports of Long Beach, Calif., Los Angeles, Calif., Oakland, Calif., Portland, Ore., Tacoma, Wash., Honolulu, Hawaii and Seattle, Wash.

“While Sandia has previously examined the potential for hydrogen and fuel cells in other applications, this is the first study of a maritime environment,” Pratt said.

Cheaper, cleaner than grid-based “cold-ironing”

A common alternative to auxiliary diesel engines is a practice called “cold-ironing,” in which a vessel at berth connects to a source of electricity on the shore. (The engine, made of steel or iron, literally becomes cold, hence the name.) Electricity supplied by a hydrogen fuel cell thus could become a new form of cold-ironing.

The U.S. Navy has been employing grid-based cold-ironing for many years to save fuel. Ports in California are now turning to the practice to meet the state’s environmental regulations. While only a few berths have grid-based cold-ironing, ports throughout California are installing infrastructure to meet the state Air Resources Board’s regulations that take effect in 2014.

But grid-based cold-ironing is complex and costly, and most ports lack the infrastructure needed to meet the power needs of multiple ships at berth. Those costs can run up to $5-10 million or more per berth, said Pratt. The Port of Oakland is installing 11 berths on six terminals at an estimated cost of about $70 million.

In addition, switching to grid-based power doesn’t eliminate emissions. Instead, that approach shifts the emissions to the source of electricity. Depending on the electricity source, the overall reduction in emissions can be relatively small.

Many potential deployment options, economic benefits

The hydrogen fuel cell barge bypasses the need for electrical infrastructure. The barge also has the capability of being moved from berth to berth as needed and to anchorage points to power vessels that are waiting for berths.

“In California, ports are already installing the necessary infrastructure for cold-ironing because of the regulations introduced a few years ago,” said Pratt. “So hydrogen fuel cell auxiliary power has the opportunity for greater impact elsewhere. While this was an unexpected finding, we discovered other locations and applications for hydrogen fuel cell power.”

At ports in Oregon and Washington, grid-based cold ironing infrastructure is limited or nonexistent. Using a hydrogen fuel cell to power container ships at berth has attracted interest for its potential economic and environmental benefits, Pratt said, and he continues to work with those ports on quantifying the benefits and deployment options.

Hawaii’s Honolulu Harbor in Oahu had a different need. Much of the cargo is unloaded and then reloaded onto barges for distribution to the other islands. As the barges have no power, they carry diesel generators to provide power to shipping containers that require refrigeration, known as “reefers.”

“You can replace the diesel generator with a hydrogen fuel cell without changing the operations. It’s just a power source in a box, a shipping container in this case,” said Pratt. Hawaii ports aren’t facing the same emissions regulations as California ports, but the potential savings in fuel cost is attractive for the company operating the inter-island transportation service, along with anyone else suffering from high fuel expenses.

The study’s basic fuel cost analysis showed that at today’s prices hydrogen, at about $4 per kilogram, with a fuel cell is cost-competitive with maritime fuels using a combustion engine. Subsequent analysis has shown that when generators are frequently producing less than maximum power, such as in the Hawaii application, the efficiency advantage of fuel cells compared to the combustion engine is widened. Even hydrogen at $5 per kilogram can potentially save tens of thousands of dollars per year for each generator.

“Fuel cost is only part of the total economic picture,” Pratt said.

He is now developing a detailed plan for the Hawaiian interisland transport barge application. “A successful deployment of the containerized fuel cell on a floating platform in a typical marine environment will be useful not only in this particular service, but also because it validates the concept for the larger, container-ship-sized application,” Pratt said. “It’s challenging on many levels, but technically feasible with potential worldwide commercial impact.”
 

Maritime Reporter March 2014 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Ports

4th cycle of SR 520 pontoons completed in Aberdeen

Another six State Route 520 bridge pontoons began floating out of the Aberdeen casting basin late Tuesday night, April 15, marking completion of the fourth of six

Padbury delays detailing port funding

Padbury Mining on Thursday failed to reveal the investors behind a more than $6 billion port and rail project in Western Australia's iron ore belt, asking for its

SC Ports Report Record Pier Container Volumes

Georgetown grows 10 percent fiscal year to date Today South Carolina Ports reported March pier container volumes were the highest since August 2008. Last month the Port handled 85,

Environmental

Canada Opts Out of Arctic Council Meeting

Canadian Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq stated that a principled stand had been taken by Ottawa against Moscow's intervention in events in Ukraine, reports

US: $4B in Loan Aid for Renewable Energy

The U.S. Energy Department on Wednesday unveiled a plan for up to $4 billion in loan aid for renewable energy companies to help rejuvenate a program that faced

Search Resumes in S. Korean Ferry Disaster

Poor weather conditions may hamper effort; Mystery surrounds capsize of ship; Nearly 280 people still missing, many of them teenagers South Korean coastguards

Energy

POSH may raise $311 Mln in Singapore IPO

PACC Offshore Services Holdings (POSH) could raise at least S$388.27 million ($311 million) after pricing its initial public offering near the bottom of the pricing range indicated earlier,

BOEM gives more time to submit plans OCS

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced today the publication of its Final Rule to extend time requirements for submitting a Site Assessment Plan

Putin set on defusing Ukraine crisis

Foreign ministers from East and West will try to defuse the Ukraine crisis on Thursday in Geneva, once frequently the scene of Cold War negotiations, but will risk

News

KVH Precision Sensors for Geodetics' Inertial Navigation Systems

KVH Industries, Inc.,  a leading manufacturer of high performance fiber optic-based inertial sensors and gyros has entered into a strategic partnership with Geodetics Inc.

Search resumes for missing in S. Korean ferry disaster

South Korean coastguards and navy divers resumed their search on Thursday for nearly 280 people still missing after a ferry capsized in what could be the country's

POSH may raise $311 Mln in Singapore IPO

PACC Offshore Services Holdings (POSH) could raise at least S$388.27 million ($311 million) after pricing its initial public offering near the bottom of the pricing range indicated earlier,

Barges

Shipbuilding: Vigor Industrial Grows Stronger

Vigor Industrial has ballooned from a modest shipyard in Portland, Oregon, to the largest shipbuilder in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Vigor increasingly thinks big and builds big.

Tug on the Rocks, Lake Pontchartrain, Three Rescued

US Coast Guard 8th District says that it has rescued 3 crewmembers aboard the (uninspected) tugboat 'UTV Todd Michael' after it grounded on the rocks near the Lakefront Airport on Lake Pontchartrain.

Foss Meets Growing Modular Business with New Barge

Foss Maritime is building a new ocean-going barge that will give the company an additional asset to transport large modules both domestically and internationally.

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Standards Offshore Oil Pipelines Port Authority Salvage Ship Repair Ship Simulators Sonar Winch
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.2207 sec (5 req/sec)