First-Ever Hydrogen Fueling of Maritime Vessel Successfully Completed

(SWITCH Maritime’s flagship zero-emissions vessel, a 75-passenger ferry powered by hydrogen fuel cells and batteries. Credit: SWITCH Maritime)

by | Nov 30, 2021

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(SWITCH Maritime’s flagship zero-emissions vessel, a 75-passenger ferry powered by hydrogen fuel cells and batteries. Credit: SWITCH Maritime)

The world’s first hydrogen fueling of a commercial marine vessel was successfully completed on November 18 at All American Marine shipyard, and the vessel is now beginning its final sea trials before delivery. The event is monumental step towards decarbonization of the worldwide shipping industry and showcases the United States’ energy transition away from fossil fuels.

The new 75-passenger ferry, called the Sea Change and managed by SWITCH Maritime, received hydrogen into its 242 kg tanks on the upper deck. It uses that hydrogen in fuel cells producing electricity to power electric motors for distances up to 300 nautical miles and speeds up to 20 knots — similar capabilities as diesel-powered vessels — with the added benefits of zero exhaust smoke or other emissions and very little vibration and noise.

The fuel loaded in the vessel’s tanks includes green hydrogen, produced in California by an electrolyzer powered with renewable solar power, which results in zero carbon emissions in the production of the fuel as well.

The fueling follows the regulatory approval in October by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) of the hydrogen powertrain and storage systems onboard the Sea Change, representing the culmination of years of cooperation with the USCG focused on safely integrating hydrogen power and storage systems on passenger vessels. The achievement of this significant milestone unlocks the possibility of many future deployments of similar hydrogen power systems on all vessel types — including ocean-going containerships.

Zero Emission Industries (ZEI), formerly Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine, is responsible for the design and development of the maritime hydrogen and fuel cell system as well as the vessel’s unique fueling system that allows it to be fueled directly from a hydrogen truck, and was responsible for the successful regulatory approvals of all hydrogen-related aspects onboard.

For the fueling during sea trials, SWITCH has engaged West Coast Clean Fuels (WCCF) to develop and permit the end-to-end clean fuel supply chains that will deliver hydrogen to the Sea Change, as well as BayoTech, for high-pressure gaseous hydrogen delivery to Sea Change during sea trials in Washington using transport trailer-to-ship transfer.

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