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  July 30th, 2015 | Written by

Research Ongoing on Hydrogen Fuel Cells For Vessels

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  • Replacing diesel engines with hydrogen fuel cells could greatly improve air and water quality in harbors.
  • U.S. Maritime Administrator: MARAD is committed to finding new technologies that reduce pollution.
  • The Maritime Fuel Cell project is piloting the use of a fuel cell to power transport barges at the Port of Honolulu.

Sandia National Laboratories is working on a project which could eventually place hydrogen fuel cells in maritime vessels. The initial research revolves around a San Francisco ferry company but it could also have implications for cargo transportation.

Replacing diesel engines and generators with hydrogen fuel cells could greatly improve air and water quality in harbor areas.

Sandia is also working on a hydrogen refueling station that is planned to be the largest in the world and will serve fuel-cell electric cars, buses, and fleet vehicles in addition to ferry and other maritime vessels.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) is funding a feasibility study to examine the technical, regulatory and economic aspects of the project.

“The Maritime Administration is committed to finding new and efficient technologies for use in the maritime industry that reduce pollution and protect our environment,” said Maritime Administrator Paul Jaenichen. “This industry continues moving forward on renewable energy and clean-fuel options, and this project encourages a shift toward lower impact maritime fuels that may further green the waterborne link in our national transportation system.”

Sandia is leading the study in partnership with the ferry company Red and White Fleet, the American Bureau of Shipping, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the naval architect Elliott Bay Design Group. Other contributors include the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.

“We are involving so many stakeholders up front because if the feasibility study shows a go we want to make sure the next phase has a rock-solid foundation,” said mechanical engineer Joe Pratt, the Sandia project lead. “We hope that the feasibility study, regardless of the outcome, can be useful to others nationally and around the world who are looking at hydrogen fuel cell vessels as clean energy alternatives.”

Sandia also leads the Maritime Fuel Cell project, which is piloting the use of a hydrogen fuel cell to power refrigerated containers on land and on transport barges at the Port of Honolulu.

“Working with the Bureau of Shipping and the Coast Guard, we’ve explored some of the unique issues related to using a hydrogen fuel cell on a vessel and in the marine environment,” said Pratt.