San Francisco Ferry Operator Looking Into Hydrogen Propulsion

  • Business & Finance

Sandia National Laboratories and San Francisco-based ferry operator Red and White Fleet have signed a cooperative research and development agreement to develop a high-speed, hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered passenger ferry and refueling station.

Named SF-BREEZE (San Francisco Bay Renewable Energy Electric vessel with Zero Emissions), the project aims to design, build and operate a high-speed hydrogen fuel cell passenger ferry and hydrogen refueling station.

The hydrogen refueling station is planned to be the largest in the world and serve fuel cell electric cars, buses and fleet vehicles in addition to the ferry and other maritime vehicles.

The boat — design, operation, maintenance and fueling — is one part of the equation; the hydrogen refueling station is the other. The high-speed passenger ferry would use about 1,000 kilograms of hydrogen per day. To put this in perspective, an average hydrogen fuel cell car might use less than 5 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. It would also be the first hydrogen refueling station to simultaneously serve land and marine uses.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) has provided USD 500,000 to fund 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.”

Sandia is leading the 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 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 mechanical engineer Joe Pratt, the Sandia project lead.

”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.”

SF-BREEZE will enter new regulatory space, both for the high-speed ferry and refueling station. The feasibility study will examine those regulations and their impact on the project.

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