Photo: Sea Change (Photo: Business Wire)

First-ever hydrogen fuelling of maritime vessel in US completed

The US-based shipowner SWITCH Maritime has completed the world’s first hydrogen fuelling of a commercial marine vessel at All American Marine shipyard.

The hydrogen fuelling of Sea Change, a new 75-passenger ferry, was completed on 18 November and the vessel is now beginning its final sea trials before delivery, SWITCH informed.

As described, Sea Change received hydrogen into its tanks on the upper deck. The hydrogen will be used in fuel cells producing electricity to power electric motors for distances up to 300 nautical miles and speeds up to 20 knots.

These capabilities are similar to those of diesel-powered vessels with the added benefit 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 company said.

The regulatory approval of the hydrogen powertrain and storage systems onboard the Sea Change was secured in October from the United States Coast Guard (USCG).

According to the shipowner, this milestone unlocks the possibility of many future deployments of similar hydrogen power systems on all vessel types, including ocean-going containerships.

“While it’s taken us years to get to this point, the timing couldn’t be better. At this moment, our nation is more committed than ever to making the transition to a carbon-free economy”, said Pace Ralli, CEO of SWITCH Maritime.

“Hydrogen will play a major role in that future, and major players in the maritime industry are ready to decarbonise. We are grateful to all our partners and proud to play a small role in accelerating the widescale adoption of hydrogen power. Hopefully, this is just the first domino to fall”.

The vessel is equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell power package provided by Zero Emissions Industries (formerly Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine), comprised of 360 kW of Cummins fuel cells and Hexagon hydrogen storage tanks with a capacity of 246 kg.

This system is integrated with 100 kWh of the lithium-ion battery provided by XALT and a 2×300 kW electric propulsion system provided by BAE Systems.

For the fueling during sea trials, SWITCH hired 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 the vessel during sea trials in Washington using transport trailer-to-ship transfer.

Sea Change is the first of the larger zero-carbon ferry fleet that SWITCH plans to construct in 2022, in partnership with municipalities and shipowners aiming to transition to carbon-free vessels.

Launched in August this year, the vessel is scheduled to begin operations in the California Bay Area in the first quarter of 2022.

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