US hydrogen fuel cell ferry completes first refueling

Sea Change was refueled by truck in Washington (Swtich Maritime)

Posted on November 30, 2021 at 6:01 PM by

The maritime executive

In the race to develop and operate hydrogen fuel cells for commercial ships, the American effort known as the Sea change, a catamaran ferry operating in the San Francisco Bay Area, reports that it has completed additional key milestones. The ship, which launched in August, has completed its first hydrogen gas refueling for a ship in the United States and has received critical approvals as it continues on track to enter service in 2022.

Switch Maritime, which built the ship as the first in a series it plans to develop with hydrogen propulsion, said the Sea change completed its first hydrogen refueling. At the All American Marine shipyard in Bellingham, Washington, the Sea change received hydrogen in its 242 kg tanks on the upper deck. Refueling during sea trials is handled by West Coast Clean Fuels, which Switch has retained to develop and license end-to-end fuel supply chains that will supply hydrogen to the Sea change, as well as BayoTech, for the delivery of high pressure hydrogen gas using the trailer-ship transport transfer to Sea change during sea trials in Washington.

The Sea change uses a unique marine hydrogen and fuel cell system designed and developed by Zero Emission Industries. The company also developed the system demonstrated during the November 18 refueling that allows the ship to receive hydrogen gas directly from a hydrogen truck. The fuel loaded into the ship’s tanks included green hydrogen, produced in California by an electrolyzer powered by renewable solar energy.

“While it took us years to get to this, the timing couldn’t be better,” said Pace Ralli, CEO of Switch Maritime. “Right now, our nation is more committed than ever to making the transition to a carbon-free economy. Hydrogen will play a major role in this future, and the major players in the maritime industry are ready to decarbonise themselves. We are grateful to all of our partners and proud to play a small role in accelerating the large-scale adoption of hydrogen energy. Hopefully this is just the first domino to drop.

The refueling follows regulatory approval in October by the United States Coast Guard of the hydrogen powertrain and storage systems aboard the Sea change, representing the culmination of years of cooperation with USCG focused on the safe integration of hydrogen fueling and storage systems on passenger ships. Achieving this milestone they believe will open up the possibility of many future deployments of similar hydrogen fuel systems to all types of ships, including ocean-going container ships, according to the companies.

The new 75-passenger ferry, which is a 70-foot catamaran ferry designed by Incat Crowther, is equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell system from ZEI. The system includes 360 kW of fuel cells from Cummins and 242 kg of hydrogen storage tanks from Hexagon Purus. A 600 kW electric propulsion system from BAE Systems includes 100 kWh of lithium-ion battery storage from XALT. She was built at All American Marine and launched in august.

The Sea change is unique in that it uses hydrogen gas in its fuel cell. Other demonstration ships burn liquid hydrogen in a more traditional combustion engine. Switch says the Sea change will use hydrogen in fuel cells producing electricity to power electric motors over distances of up to 300 nautical miles and at speeds of up to 20 knots. This will give the vessel similar capabilities to similar diesel powered vessels.

After successfully completing the first hydrogen refueling, the Sea change is currently completing the final operational sea trials prior to delivery from the shipyard and prior to commencing operations in the California Bay Area in the first quarter of 2022.

Switch’s vision is to achieve a fully zero carbon green hydrogen supply chain, which is currently in short supply in the United States. the cost of hydrogen lower than that of diesel, which advances the deployment of fleets running on hydrogen.

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