Hydrogen fuel cells may be technically feasible and commercially attractive as a “clean, quiet and efficient” power source for ships at berth, replacing onboard diesel generators, according to a study by the Sandia National Laboratories.
The report, which was completed for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, evaluated a simple fuel cell strategy that consists of mounting a hydrogen-fueled proton exchange membrane fuel cell on a floating barge. It found that supplying a container ship with average power and run times of 1.4 megawatts over 48 hours requires four 40-foot containers — two for the fuel cell and two for hydrogen fuel storage, which could 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.
The approach, which would use electricity to supply a hydrogen fuel cell, could become a new form of “cold-ironing,” in which a vessel at berth connects to a source of electricity on the shore, the report said. It would lower emissions, cut costs and bypass the need for electrical infrastructure, since a barge can be moved from berth to berth as needed.
“In California, ports are already installing the necessary infrastructure for cold-ironing because of the regulations introduced a few years ago,” said Joe Pratt, a researcher with Sandia, in a written statement. “So hydrogen fuel cell auxiliary power has the opportunity for greater impact elsewhere.”