Hydrogen Moving into Ports & Maritime: A Global Shift

November 27, 2018

The transition to the hydrogen economy in the ports and maritime sector was highlighted at two prominent events on opposite sides of the world this October and November. The first was the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in Ports and Shipping workshop organized by the California Hydrogen Business Council (CHBC) in October, which took place in Southern California. This annual event discussed the use of hydrogen and fuel cells to reduce greenhouse gases and improve air quality in ports and nearby neighborhoods. The workshop covered two very different applications for hydrogen: ports, or landside; and maritime shipping, or waterside. The requirements, challenges and opportunities for each sector are different and were duly explored and discussed.

The second event, in November, was the European Hydrogen Ports Conference in Brussels, Belgium, held across the street from the European Commission. By bringing the European Policy Solutions event right to the front door of the European Commission, the goal was achieved to educate policymakers on the topic of hydrogen and fuel cells for ports and the maritime. This event also served as a platform for ports in Europe to share their perception of hydrogen and talk about planned projects.

The transition to the hydrogen economy in the maritime sector was the focus of two events, one in Southern California, one in Belgium.

Hydrogen Workshop Discussed Waterside Applications

The workshop in the Port of LA began with an afternoon devoted to hydrogen and fuel cells for waterside applications. Questions about when hydrogen vessels would be on the water were answered by Dr. Joseph Pratt, CEO of Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine, as he discussed the California Air Resources Board (CARB) funded Water-Go-Round hydrogen fuel cell ferry project. When launched, the Water-Go-Round will be the first fuel cell vessel in the U.S. and the first commercial fuel cell ferry in the world. The vessel is expected to be on the water to begin testing by mid-2019, and in full service by late 2019 with the San Francisco Bay Red & White Fleet.

Another exciting hydrogen vessel project in California involved the completion of a feasibility study on ZERO-V, a research vessel to be used by Scripps Oceanographic Institute, who currently operates three research vessels. With the ZERO-V feasibility study complete and the project deemed “possible in theory”, the next step is for the project to be funded.

The Water-Go-Round will be the first fuel cell vessel in the U.S. and the first commercial fuel cell ferry in the world, when launched in San Francisco Bay late in 2019.

One of the benefits of a zero-emission vessel is its silent operation, an important factor for ocean research vessels studying wildlife sensitive to noise and vibrations in the ocean. This is the reason the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) funded MARANDA project in Europe is using a fuel cell system on a VTT research vessel. Another benefit of fuel cells on vessels is the lack of diesel fumes making people seasick. Much of the time seasickness is caused by diesel fume inhalation, not motion.

Also included in the discussion was ABB, who plans on using fuel cells to provide hotel load to cruise ships, such as Viking Cruises, who sail in the Norwegian fjords. These fjords are becoming zero-emission zones due to pollution problems.

Landside Applications for Fuel Cells

The second day of the LA workshop was focused on port, or landside applications. Presentations from both the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach underlined their plans for transitioning to zero-emission technologies for vehicles and terminal equipment. The 2017 Clean Air Action Plan Update confirms the two ports are committed to their goal of transitioning to zero-emissions by 2035. Both ports have been very focused on reducing NOx, SOx, and diesel particulate matter, as well as criteria pollutants.

The air quality problem is not unique to the Southern California ports. Representatives from the Ports of Auckland, New Zealand and Valencia, Spain presented their efforts to clean up the air around their ports by utilizing fuel cell technology.

The 2017 Clean Air Action Plan Update from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach ushers in a new era of clean air strategies for moving cargo through the nations busiest container port complex.

A keynote presentation addressed the path to commercialization for hydrogen and fuel cells in ports, highlighting the value the industry brings as well as the challenges it faces. The biggest public value in the move to fuel cells is the improvement of air quality. The largest hurdle to overcome is cost. Policy framework is of the utmost importance, as regulations are needed to curb emissions coming from port and freight activity. Incentives are needed for the fuel cell industry to create sustainable businesses cases, in order to compete with other zero-emission technologies. Thanks to a number of programs coming out of the California Air Resources Board and the California Energy Commission, there is funding for larger “pre-commercialization” projects. Hydrogen fuel cell technology has been proven, it’s now time for scaling up the utilization.

Hydrogen production was also discussed, from onsite production through electrolysis, onsite production through an electrochemical hydrogen separation (EHS) system which separates hydrogen from natural gas, and centralized hydrogen production from renewables. All are options for providing green hydrogen, which is what customers demand if they are adopting fuel cell equipment to move away from fossil fuels.

Hydrogen Policy a European Focus

Across the pond, the European Hydrogen Ports Conference kicked off with a strong focus on policy. The presenters, who ranged from commissioners in the European Commission to industry representatives and researchers, as well as ports, discussed their plans for the production and use of hydrogen.

The European event focused on the need to reduce emissions from the shipping industry, currently one of the major polluters worldwide.

The use of hydrogen for vessels and shipping was a key topic, due to the shipping industry’s role as a major polluter. Currently shipping is responsible for 2.2% of annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the world. If shipping was a country, it would be among the top 10 polluters. Projections of global emissions from shipping indicate it could reach 10-15% of global carbon emissions by 2050. This has caught the attention of policy makers. Hydrogen can play a crucial role in the future of shipping as a final fuel or as an input source to e-fuels like e-ammonia and e-methanol. It’s competitiveness in the maritime sector will be driven by the cost of the fuel and storage. It was stated that the use of hydrogen, combined with sector coupling, can achieve 96% decarbonization of the shipping sector by 2050.

Reporting to the UN, the International Association of Ports & Harbors created the World Ports Sustainability Program (WPSP) in 2018, building on the World Port Climate Initiative (WPCI) conceived by the UN in 2008. The scope of the WPSP is broken into silos: resilient infrastructure, climate and energy, safety and security, community outreach and port-city dialog, governance and ethics. It will also be working to compile an online portfolio of global sustainability projects in ports. The WPSP will continue to call on the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to reach its target of GHG emission reductions, and push for desulfurization of marine heavy fuels.

IMO Needs to Develop Hydrogen Standards

The IMO sets the regulatory framework for international shipping and is the one to approve alternative fuels for marine use. Today there are no standards set by the IMO for hydrogen, while LNG does have a standard and prescriptive instructions for use. This creates a problem for any vessel that wants to use fuel cells on board, forcing an expensive and lengthy alternative fuel approval process.

Earlier this year the IMO stated GHG emissions in the shipping sector need to be reduced 50% by 2050 compared to 2008.

Earlier this year, the IMO stated GHG emissions in the shipping sector need to be reduced 50% by 2050 compared to 2008. The IMO GHG reduction strategy has short, medium- and long-term measures. Short term action is to agree on an emissions reduction strategy by 2023. Medium- and long-term actions are to prepare for low and zero carbon fuels. The transition will be to phase out fossil fuels with zero- and near zero-emission fuels by 2050.

This can be done by moving to 30% zero- and near zero-emission fuels by 2030, 70% by 2040 and 100% by 2050 as presented by the University of Maritime Advisory Services (UMAS). Hydrogen and fuel cells will play a large role in meeting this target. It is assumed that hydrogen will be produced in the Middle East where there is cheap renewable electricity, then transported in bunker ships. Today the availability of fuels that are zero- and near zero-emission are limited. LNG was mentioned, but not as an option to meeting GHG reduction targets, due to the fugitive methane from LNG transmission, bunkering leakage and engine slip. It was further stated by UMAS Transport & Environment that stranded investments for LNG infrastructure are a great risk to reaching goals of the Paris Agreement.

Fuel Cells are the Future

The main takeaway from both international events is that hydrogen is coming to the ports and shipping sector in a big way. It has already arrived in the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach with multiple hydrogen fuel cell cargo handling equipment projects scheduled to begin in 2019. Norway and San Francisco will soon see hydrogen powered ferries in their waters. With electrification of ports around the world putting great pressure on local utilities to have the infrastructure available, hydrogen is looking more like a solution that will be widely implemented for its similarity to conventional fuels in its work process and use. Many ports in the world already generate hydrogen for the refining and chemical industries. The scale that the shipping sector brings to the table is enormous. Multi-megawatt fuel cell ships are on the horizon, since most container vessels already use electric motors powered by gensets. There is also the large liquid hydrogen export potential from countries with immense renewable resources like Australia, New Zealand, Chile and the Orkney Islands in the UK. The future fuel cell powered vessels will require thousands of kilograms of hydrogen per day, numbers that will dwarf the projections for the passenger car market, and require infrastructure buildout at a gigawatt scale not yet seen today. Stay tuned…