Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Foss Joins Hydrogen Fuel Research Project

By Mark Edward Nero

Seattle-based Foss Maritime and its Hawaiian subsidiary, Young Brothers Ltd., have launched a partnership with hydrogen researchers at Sandia National Laboratory in a project aimed at producing cleaner air and less costly fuel.

The partners revealed Feb. 26 that they’re building a portable, self-contained hydrogen fuel cell for testing at the Port of Honolulu beginning in 2015 for six months. The prototype, Foss says, can be installed on barges, provide power to refrigerated containers on the dock or be transported to wherever it’s needed to generate electricity.

In 2013, Sandia scientists completed a study confirming hydrogen fuel cells’ ability to provide additional power to docked or anchored ships.

“The entire maritime industry stands to benefit from the work we’ll be doing with Sandia’s hydrogen researchers,” Foss Maritime President and CEO Paul Stevens said.

“No one has ever built this kind of custom unit for this purpose,” Sandia’s Joe Pratt, who led the previous study and serves as project manager, remarked. The unit, he said, will fit inside a 20-foot shipping container and consists of four 30-kilowatt fuel cells, a hydrogen storage system and power conversion equipment.

The completed system is to be deployed by Young Brothers, which ships goods throughout the Hawaiian Islands. The unit is undergoing detailed engineering and design through mid-2014 and, after construction and an additional month of training for Young Brothers operators, is expected to be operational in a six-month test phase in early 2015, according to Foss. The Hawaii project is sponsored by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and by the US Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD).

Two other companies are also involved in the project: Hydrogenics Corp., which will build the prototype unit and provide fuel cells; and Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, which will provide assistance with the availability of hydrogen. Pratt said that after the six-month deployment of the fuel cell system, the project team will analyze the project’s successes and challenges and that the best-case scenario would be continuous, reliable operation of the prototype fuel cell system at the pier and on a barge.

“All of the project partners believe in the commercial viability of this work and believe this will become much bigger than a one-off deployment,” Pratt said.

The long-range goal, he said, is to develop a commercial product that can be widely used at ports worldwide.