The Port of Honolulu will soon be home a state-of-the-art hydrogen fuel cell auxiliary power system — providing clean low-emissions power to docked and/or anchored ships.
The current plan — which follows up on last year’s pre-pilot study and analysis — is for a highly portable, self-contained hydrogen fuel cell unit to be deployed to the dock in 2015. The fuel cell unit will be able to provide power whether floating on a barge or sitting on a dock, and will be easily transportable to wherever power is needed.
The new project is being headed by hydrogen researchers from Sandia National Laboratories — together with several partner groups, they are currently developing the unit as a solution to some of the water and air pollution problems common to large ports.
“No one has ever built this kind of custom unit for this purpose,” explained Sandia’s project manager, Joe Pratt. “The unit will fit inside a 20-foot shipping container and will consist of four 30-kilowatt fuel cells, a hydrogen storage system and power conversion equipment.”
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The system will be delivered to and deployed by Young Brothers, Ltd, one of the project partners and a primary shipper of goods throughout the Hawaiian Islands. The unit is undergoing detailed engineering and design through mid-2014 and, after fabrication, assembly and training for Young Brothers operators, will be operational during a six-month deployment in early 2015. Young Brothers, the project’s demonstration partner, is a subsidiary of Foss Maritime Company, a shipping firm that has strong environmental and financial interests in the project.
After conducting a study of various ports in 2013, Sandia analyzed Young Brother’s shipping operations in more detail. Like many operators, the company uses diesel engine generators to provide power to refrigerated containers.
“We compared the efficiencies of their diesel engines versus fuel cells, studied the energy efficiencies at various power levels and estimated the savings and reductions in emissions that would be realized if they were to convert to a fuel cell-powered operation,” stated Pratt. “Analyses have shown that when generators are frequently producing less than maximum power, such as in the Hawaii application, the efficiency advantage of fuel cells compared to the combustion engine increases.”
While the study did have to do a bit of estimation (ex: price of hydrogen), the work did seem to clearly show that Young Brothers could “save fuel and energy while greatly reducing emissions, if it switched primarily to fuel cells.”
Thanks to these results, the project is now moving forward with funding from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the US Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD). The project is also being backed by Hydrogenics Corp (designing and building the prototype unit and supplying the fuel cells) and the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (providing assistance with hydrogen supply issues).
While this initial project will only last six months, the researchers involved are aiming for it to lead to the development of a commercial technology that could be used at ports around the world.