Maritime Hydrogen & SF-BREEZE

Maritime Hydrogen & SF-BREEZE 2018-01-23T17:20:30+00:00

Optimization of Zero Emission Hydrogen Fuel Cell Ferry Designs

This study presents realistic designs of five commercially-relevant passenger vessels powered solely by hydrogen fuel cells.  All five designs are feasible to build and operate today.  Per-passenger mile energy use and costs are analyzed and show that low speed, large capacity vessels offer a cost-effective starting point for today’s hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Informing Hazardous Zones for On-Board Hydrogen Systems

The significantly higher buoyancy of hydrogen compared to natural gas means that hazardous zones defined in current maritime safety codes for natural gas may be inaccurate if applied to hydrogen. This study presents gas dispersion analyses for three hydrogen vent/leak scenarios.  The results can be used by industry and code developers to ensure safety of future vessels using hydrogen as a fuel.

Practical Application Limits of Fuel Cells and Batteries for Zero Emission Vessels

Hydrogen and fuel cells were studied as an alternative power plant for maritime vessels by considering 14 case studies of various ship sizes and routes varying from small passenger vessels to the largest cargo ships. The results show that it is practically feasible to consider these zero emission technologies for most vessels in the world’s fleet. Hydrogen fuel cells proved to be the most capable while battery systems showed an advantage for high power, short duration missions. The results can guide to ship designers to determine the most suitable types of zero emission power plants to fit a ship based on its size and energy requirements.

San Francisco Bay Renewable Energy Electric vessel with Zero Emissions


San Francisco Bay Renewable Energy Electric vessel with Zero Emissions (SF-BREEZE)

Sandia and Red and White Fleet are partnering on a concept to design, build, and operate a high-speed hydrogen fuel cell passenger ferry and hydrogen refueling station in the San Francisco Bay. Sandia is conducting a feasibility study on the technical, regulatory, and economic aspects of the concept, funded by the US Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration.

Maritime Hydrogen Fuel Cell Generator Project

MarFC GeneratorMaritime Hydrogen Fuel Cell Project

The Maritime Hydrogen Fuel Cell (MarFC) project is testing the feasibility of hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered generators as an alternative to diesel generators to provide clean power in port operations. Cofunded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration, in August 2015 MarFC is launching a six-month deployment at the Port of Honolulu.

Zero Emissions Research Oceanographic Vessel (ZERO/V)

The R/V Robert Gordon Sproul, similar to the type of research vessel which is the subject of the ZERO/V project. Photo Courtesy of Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The R/V Robert Gordon Sproul, similar to the type of research vessel which is the subject of the ZERO/V project. Photo Courtesy of Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Sandia is partnering with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography to examine the feasibility of a coastal-class research vessel that will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells and have zero emissions.  The project builds on the recently-completed SF-BREEZE feasibility study by examining a larger, monohull vessel with nominal 10-day endurance at 10 knots.  The study will include an examination of whether the reduced noise and eliminated exhaust emissions  can enhance the scientific capability of the vessel.  In addition, the regulatory and technical feasibility of storing hydrogen below the main deck and bunkering large amounts of liquid hydrogen will be determined, aspects which have implications on cargo vessels and cruise ships.

SF-BREEZE Optimization Study

The SF-BREEZE feasibility study determined it is possible to build and operate a 35 knot, 150 passenger catamaran ferry powered by hydrogen fuel cells and producing zero emissions.  The feasibility study revealed that the high speed nature of the vessel combined with the weight of the zero emission power plant (fuel cells and hydrogen storage) leads to higher per-passenger power requirement, cost, and emissions (when hydrogen is produced from fossil fuel) relative to a conventional diesel ferry of similar size. Combined, these observations point to an opportunity to optimize vessel performance specifications to maximize emissions benefits while minimizing cost.  Working in conjunction with a naval architect, the SF-BREEZE optimization study maps the performance requirement design space by determining cost and emissions associated with a range of vessel speeds, passenger counts, and routes relevant in the United States.  The goal is to find zero emission hydrogen ferries with maximum benefit using the hydrogen and fuel cell technology available today.

Examination of Maritime Hazardous Zone Regulations Applied to Hydrogen

Current hazardous zones in the IGF code are based on the leaks of natural gas.  The significantly higher buoyancy of hydrogen means that these zones may not be accurate if applied directly to hydrogen.  This project performs gas dispersion analyses of potential hydrogen release events relevant in ship design to inform accurate hazardous zone requirements for hydrogen.  This will avoid situations that may be unsafe by using incorrect hazardous zones, will avoid placing undue burden on vessel layout and design, and will enable faster and easier approval.  This project applies Sandia’s existing Safety, Codes, and Standards expertise in hydrogen in collaboration with maritime authorities and Class Societies.

Zero Emission Hydrogen Vessel Working Group

Sandia is the founder and lead of the Zero Emission Hydrogen Vessel Working Group, a public-private group which meets regularly to share non-competitive information.  The main goal of the group is to connect entities to each other and to resources – i.e. funding support, technology and expertise, and regulatory guidance.  On-going feedback and results from efforts are shared with the group.  The group is also developing a roadmap which will be used as a guide for actions that group members take on, and eventually for advocacy/outreach of group activities.  To join the group please contact Joe Pratt.

Vessel Cold-Ironing Using a Barge Mounted PEM Fuel Cell

This study examined the possibility of providing zero emission power to a variety of vessels at berth including this 6,000 TEU containership at the Port of Tacoma (photo: Joe Pratt).


A barge-mounted hydrogen-fueled proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell system has the potential to reduce emissions and fossil fuel use of maritime vessels in and around ports. This study determines the technical feasibility of this concept and examines specific options on the U.S. West Coast for deployment practicality and potential for commercialization.  The conceptual design of the system is found to be straightforward and technically feasible in several configurations corresponding to various power levels and run times.  The most technically viable and commercially attractive deployment options were found to be powering container ships at berth at the Port of Tacoma and/or Seattle, powering tugs at anchorage near the Port of Oakland, and powering refrigerated containers on-board Hawaiian inter-island transport barges. Other attractive demonstration options were found at the Port of Seattle, the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet, the California Maritime Academy, and an excursion vessel on the Ohio River.