UC San Diego hires Glosten to design hybrid-hydrogen research vessel

Naval architecture and marine engineering company Glosten has been selected to design a new coastal research vessel with a hydrogen-hybrid propulsion system for the University of California San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Illustration; Archive; Courtesy of Glosten
Proposed conceptual rendering of the new California coastal research vessel. Courtesy of Glosten

For this project, Glosten will provide the preliminary design, contract design and detailed design for the vessel that is said to be an innovation in the maritime industry with a first-of-its-kind propulsion system.

The new research vessel will feature a hybrid propulsion system that integrates hydrogen fuel cells alongside a conventional diesel-electric power plant, enabling zero-emission operations.

The design is scaled so the ship will be able to operate 75% of its missions entirely using a non-fossil fuel—hydrogen—with only pure water and electricity as reaction products, the developers claim.

For longer missions, extra power will be provided by clean-running modern diesel generators. According to UC San Diego, the vessel represents a major step in advancing California’s pledge to reduce global climate risk while transitioning to a carbon-neutral economy.

The proposed 125-foot vessel will be equipped with instruments and sensing systems, including acoustic Doppler current profilers, seafloor mapping systems, midwater fishery imaging systems, biological and geological sampling systems, and support for airborne drone operations.

The anticipated schedule for design and construction includes one year to complete the basic design. Following U.S. Coast Guard approval of the design, the university will select the shipyard where the design will be constructed. Construction and detail design will likely take an additional three years. 

When completed, it will join the fleet of vessels managed by Scripps including the Navy-owned research vessels Sally Ride and Roger Revelle, which conduct global oceanographic research, and the research vessel Bob and Betty Beyster, a nearshore scientific workboat.

Last summer, California legislators allocated $35 million towards the design and construction of this vessel that will serve as a platform for education and research dedicated to understanding the California coast and climate change impacts on the coastal ecosystem.

“This vessel will be the first of its kind, and the selection of the naval architect is a major milestone for Scripps“, said Bruce Appelgate, associate director and head of ship operations at Scripps Oceanography.

“Fundamentally, our ships have to be reliable and capable in order to support the innovative research our scientists conduct at sea. On top of that, the ship we envision needs to demonstrate that zero-emission power systems work effectively under demanding real-world conditions. It’s the job of the naval architect to provide the necessary engineering, design, and integration skills needed for this project to succeed on every level.”

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