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World's First Methanol-fueled Towboat to Launch in 2023

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

November 29, 2021

(Image: Elliott Bay Design Group)

(Image: Elliott Bay Design Group)

A first of its kind cleaner burning methanol-fueled towboat is set to hit the water in 2023 as the maritime industry continues to develop and implement new technologies for cleaner vessel operations.

The Hydrogen One is being developed by owner Maritime Partners in cooperation with naval architecture firm Elliott Bay Design Group and hardware suppliers e1 Marine and ABB.

Decarbonizing the towboat sector poses substantial challenges, particularly due to towboats’ inherent size, space and weight limitations. Batteries are only suitable for operations on fixed routes where daily recharging is possible, and a towboat’s limited storage capacity restricts the use of pressurized or cryogenically stored gases as fuels. There are also very few dockside facilities to load such marine fuels, which severely constrains a vessel’s range and functionality.

Hydrogen One will be IMO 2030 compliant, and meet all requirements of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Subchapter M regulations. The ship has been designed by Elliott Bay Design Group using proven, efficient technology throughout, from ABB’s electrical power distribution and automation to e1 Marine’s methanol-to-hydrogen fuel cell, and it will be able to perform at standard operational speeds for up to 550 miles before it needs to refuel.

Methanol is a common towboat cargo, and it is available in 88 of the world's top 100 ports. The Hydrogen One’s use of e1 Marine’s reformer technology generates hydrogen from methanol on-demand, which also makes it considerably safer than transferring and storing hydrogen directly, and the ship’s crew will require minimal additional training to use the technology.

Austin Sperry, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Maritime Partners, said, “Shipowners have been understandably reluctant to commit to low carbon fuels until the infrastructure is available to refuel their vessels. The M/V Hydrogen One solves that problem by using methanol, which is safe and readily available worldwide. When the M/V Hydrogen One joins our fleet of 1,600 vessels, it will not only provide excellent emissions reduction capabilities but highly functional, reliable, and cost-effective operations.”

Dave Lee at ABB Marine & Ports, said, “The U.S. towboat market is one of the most traditional in the world, so it's important to recognize what this represents: the first step in a shift from diesel electric to methanol electric, and a major advancement towards zero emissions. Governed by ABB’s power management and distribution technology, the system consumes methanol fuel on-demand. This philosophy is much more efficient than a traditional towboat, where you need both main engines as well as a generator online at all times. Through this design and our technology we’re enabling not only huge operational and cost efficiencies, but making the most environmentally friendly mode of transport even more sustainable.”

Robert Schluter, Managing Director at e1 Marine, said, “Converting methanol to hydrogen reduces the CO2 output and our reformer technology eliminates the complexities of direct fueling and storage of gas marine fuels. By producing hydrogen at the point of consumption from a mixture of methanol and water, e1 Marine’s system enables the safe, efficient, and economic use of hydrogen as a marine fuel. The technology is ideal for anything that requires continuous power over extended periods, including work boats and medium-range passenger vessels, or to provide backup power in ports and harbors.”

Mike Complita, Principal and Vice President of Strategic Expansion at Elliott Bay Design Group, said, “M/V Hydrogen One is the model for what is likely to be the only practical and commercially available technology that will enable smaller vessels to run for multiple days on a single fuel load and without the need for dedicated refueling facilities. Our naval architects have optimized the balance between reformers, fuel cells and batteries to maximize range and power while minimizing operational costs. This design and the technologies it uses can be easily scaled to suit any vessel with a similar need to operate on variable routes with multiple-day transit times, and further enhances Elliott Bay Design Group's market-leading expertise in this growing sector.”