Sandia National Laboratories on Aug. 28 began leading a maritime hydrogen fuel cell project at the Port of Honolulu facility of Young Brothers Ltd. to test a hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered generator as an alternative to conventional diesel generators.
Following the six-month test of the fuel cell unit, the project team will analyze the project’s successes and challenges, including the operating and cost parameters needed to make a business case at other ports.
“The long-range goal is to develop a commercial-ready technology that can be widely used at other ports,” said Joe Pratt, Sandia’s project lead. “The project team sees a strong market need and desire for a fuel cell solution, not only at maritime ports but also for users who aren’t connected to a grid.”
Planning for the Maritime Hydrogen Fuel Cell project began in late 2012 with a study that determined that hydrogen fuel cells could replace diesel generators in providing auxiliary power on board and to ships at berth.
“At the point of use, hydrogen fuel cells produce nothing but water – zero pollutant emissions and no greenhouse gases,” Pratt said. “This technology could enable major commercial ports and marine vessels to lessen their environmental impacts.”
An analysis by Sandia and DOE showed that due to fluctuating loads in maritime auxiliary power applications, a hydrogen fuel cell, which only supplies power when it’s needed, is more energy efficient than a diesel engine.
The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office and the US Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration are funding the six-month deployment of the hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered generator, which is comprised of four 30-kilowatt fuel cells, a hydrogen storage system and power-conversion equipment packaged in a 20-foot shipping container.
The generator has enough energy to power 10 refrigerated containers for 20 continuous hours of operation.
The unit is already providing power to refrigerated containers on shore and soon will begin powering the same refrigerated containers on Young Brothers’ barges that distribute goods to Hawaii’s other islands. Young Brothers is a Foss Maritime subsidiary.