LIVERMORE, California, July 27, 2015 (ENS) – The world’s largest hydrogen fueling station is in the works for San Francisco. Plans call for it to serve fuel cell electric cars, buses and fleet vehicles in addition to a high-speed ferry and other maritime vessels.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration, MARAD, is funding a feasibility study to examine the technical, regulatory and economic aspects of the project.
“The Maritime Administration is committed to finding new and efficient technologies for use in the maritime industry that reduce pollution and protect our environment,” said Maritime Administrator Paul “Chip” Jaenichen.
“This industry continues moving forward on renewable energy and clean-fuel options, and this project encourages a shift toward lower impact maritime fuels that may further green the waterborne link in our national transportation system,” said Jaenichen.
Named SF-BREEZE, which stands for San Francisco Bay Renewable Energy Electric vessel with Zero Emissions, the project’s plans include design, construction and operation of a high-speed hydrogen fuel cell passenger ferry and the hydrogen refueling station.
The ferry would use about 1,000 kilograms of hydrogen a day, while an average hydrogen fuel cell car might use less than five kilograms of hydrogen per week.
To support the ferry and other potential users, the refueling station would have a capacity of 1,500 kilograms a day – about twice the size of the largest hydrogen refueling station in the world today. It would also be the first hydrogen refueling station to serve land and marine uses simultaneously.
Reducing the cost of hydrogen refueling could stimulate the market for hydrogen fuel cell cars and could accelerate adoption of the technology for heavy-duty trucks and buses.
“This project offers an opportunity to closely examine how hydrogen can take its rightful place as a clean, low-carbon fuel for high-volume transportation operations, and also build the business case as part of an innovative application for fuel cells,” said Catherine Dunwoody, chief of the Fuel Cell Program at the California Air Resources Board.
The economy of scale could boost the local hydrogen fuel cell marketplace.
“A larger station reduces the cost per kilogram of hydrogen. Higher use will drive down that cost even more,” said mechanical engineer Joe Pratt, the project lead with Sandia National Laboratories, a U.S. government lab that is partnering with San Francisco’s Red and White Fleet on the project.
Red and White Fleet President Tom Escher is excited about the project. “Everyone is talking about reducing emissions by 20 percent, 40 percent or more,” he said. “I thought, ‘Why not do away with emissions altogether?'”
Sandia National Laboratories, which recently signed a cooperative research and development agreement with Red and White Fleet, is helping the San Francisco-based company realize that goal.
For the refueling station, Sandia can draw on its technical expertise in developing and optimizing safe, cost-effective vehicular hydrogen fueling stations. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Fuel Cell Technologies Office, Sandia is involved in two nationwide infrastructure initiatives: H2USA, a private-public partnership to advance hydrogen infrastructure, and the Hydrogen Fueling Infrastructure Research and Station Technology (H2FIRST), a U.S. Department of Energy project established to support H2USA.
Sandia is leading the feasibility study in partnership with Red and White Fleet, the American Bureau of Shipping, the U.S. Coast Guard and naval architect Elliott Bay Design Group. Other contributors include the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board and the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.
“We are involving so many stakeholders up front because if the feasibility study shows a ‘go’ we want to make sure the next phase has a rock-solid foundation,” said Pratt. “We hope that the feasibility study, regardless of the outcome, can be useful to others nationally and around the world who are looking at hydrogen fuel cell vessels as clean energy alternatives.”
Hydrogen fuel cells have several advantages over the diesel engines that power most passenger ferries – no harmful exhaust emissions, higher energy efficiency, quiet operation and no risk of fuel spills.
Replacing diesel engines and generators with hydrogen fuel cells could improve air and water quality in harbor areas.
Escher joked that if the project succeeds, “It will make all of my boats obsolete and I’ll have to replace my entire fleet. But in all seriousness,” he said, “this is really about preserving the environment for future generations.”