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 August 2015 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Ports

DP World Profit Up 22%

Global marine terminal operator DP World today announced strong financial results from its global portfolio of marine terminals for the six months to 30 June 2015,

Panama Canal Suspends Draft Restriction

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has lifted scheduled vessel draft restrictions brought on by lingering draught conditions in the region.   The ACP had previously set restrictions of 11.

Carnival Ramping Up in New Orleans

Carnival on track for record year from Port of New Orleans in 2015; expects to embark 3 millionth passenger post-Katrina next year   New Orleans’ number one cruise

Environmental

China Passes New Pollution Law, Will Cap Coal Consumption

Legislators have approved amendments to China's 15-year-old air pollution law that grant the state new powers to punish offenders and create a legal framework to cap coal consumption,

Marad Celebrates Deployment of Maritime Fuel Cell Project

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) today celebrated the launch of field trials for the first prototype hydrogen fuel cell

Panama Canal Suspends Draft Restriction

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has lifted scheduled vessel draft restrictions brought on by lingering draught conditions in the region.   The ACP had previously set restrictions of 11.

Energy

China Passes New Pollution Law, Will Cap Coal Consumption

Legislators have approved amendments to China's 15-year-old air pollution law that grant the state new powers to punish offenders and create a legal framework to cap coal consumption,

Marad Celebrates Deployment of Maritime Fuel Cell Project

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) today celebrated the launch of field trials for the first prototype hydrogen fuel cell

Gazprom, OMV Meet on Establishing Nord Stream JV

At a Meeting held at the Gazprom headquarters between Alexey Miller, Chairman of the Company's Management Committee and Rainer Seele, Chairman of the Executive Board of OMV,

News

China Passes New Pollution Law, Will Cap Coal Consumption

Legislators have approved amendments to China's 15-year-old air pollution law that grant the state new powers to punish offenders and create a legal framework to cap coal consumption,

Marad Celebrates Deployment of Maritime Fuel Cell Project

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) today celebrated the launch of field trials for the first prototype hydrogen fuel cell

Gazprom, OMV Meet on Establishing Nord Stream JV

At a Meeting held at the Gazprom headquarters between Alexey Miller, Chairman of the Company's Management Committee and Rainer Seele, Chairman of the Executive Board of OMV,

Barges

MN 100: Bouchard Transportation

The Company: Bouchard Transportation’s history dates back to its incorporation in 1918 by founder, Capt. Fred Bouchard, the youngest tugboat captain in the Port of New York.

ASL Shipyard Secures S$140mln Build Contracts

ASL Shipyard Pte Ltd. a wholly-owned subsidiary of ASL Marine Holdings Ltd., has secured new shipbuilding contracts worth approximately S$140 million for the construction

The Maritime Person of the Year

The Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s annual salute to ‘the person of the year’ this year spotlights McAllister Towing and Transportation Co. and its leadership team.

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Security Naval Architecture Offshore Oil Pipelines Pod Propulsion Port Authority Salvage Ship Repair Sonar
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: 0.6365 sec (2 req/sec)