Maritime Applications for Hydrogen Fuel Cells

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Maritime Applications for Hydrogen Fuel Cells 2018-11-09T21:20:20+00:00

Zero/V Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Coastal Research Vessel

Sandia partnered with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the naval architect firm Glosten and the class society DNV GL to assess the technical, regulatory and economic feasibility of a hydrogen fuel-cell coastal research vessel.  Feasibility was found for a 10-knot vessel with 2400 nautical mile range, able to perform 14 Scripps science missions, and could be refueled with liquid hydrogen at 4 different ports of call along the U.S. west coast.  An analysis was also performed of the criteria pollutant emissions as well as greenhouse gas emissions.  The Zero-V has zero emissions on the vessel itself.  Dramatic reductions in both types of emissions along the hydrogen production and delivery pathways could be achieved using renewable liquid hydrogen.  No “show-stopping” issues were identified by either DNV GL or the United States Coast Guard.  The feasibility of the Zero-V, as well as the ability to refuel it with ~ 11,000 kg of hydrogen, has implications for large hydrogen fueled vessels such as cargo vessels and cruise ships. This work was funded by the Maritime Administration (MARAD) within the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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 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.