Operating & Environmental Standards

4/29/2016: Coast Guard works on hydrogen fuel cell high-speed passenger ferry

Written by Cmdr. Jason Smith, detachment chief of the Coast Guard’s Liquefied Gas Carrier National Center of Expertise

The U.S. Coast Guard is working with Red and White Fleet, Sandia National Laboratories, the Maritime Administration (MARAD), the American Bureau of Shipping and Elliott Bay Design Group on a MARAD-funded feasibility study to examine the technical, regulatory and economic aspects of building and operating a high-speed hydrogen fuel cell passenger ferry and hydrogen refueling station in San Francisco. The project is accurately named SF-BREEZE for attempting to bring San Francisco Bay Renewable Energy Electric vessels with Zero Emissions to reality.

In addition to the engineering and economic feasibility of the project, the study will identify how to most safely regulate such a novel vessel and fueling operation.

This project demonstrates the speed at which this market is moving and its endless possibilities. Just a year ago, the U.S. saw its first liquefied gas fueled vessel with Harvey Gulf’s LNG fueled offshore supply vessel HARVEY ENERGY; now there are six U.S. LNG fueled vessels in operation including the world’s first container ships. The SF-BREEZE project is another first, not just for the U.S. but the world, and we don’t take on these types of new designs lightly.

Although we are fortunate to have existing international guidance and Coast Guard policy that provide the framework to allow the safe use of liquefied gases as fuel on vessels, the current guidance does not include details for liquid hydrogen or fuel cell power systems. To overcome this, we have been researching additional maritime standards and comparable guidelines from other regulated industries that use hydrogen. In addition, we are fortunate to be working with some of the world’s most renowned hydrogen experts to ensure we get this right.

Under the Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy, Rear Adm. Paul Thomas, the Coast Guard Office of Design & Engineering Standards, Marine Safety Center and LGC NCOE are working together with cooperation from other agencies on this project. Earlier this month the team visited NASA’s Cryogenics Test Laboratory at Kennedy Space Center, to better understand how NASA stores, transfers and uses hydrogen. In addition the visit revealed many ground breaking findings NASA has been working on to increase efficiency and safety throughout this process.

In addition to their recent work with the SF BREEZE project, research engineers Bill Notardonato and James Fesmire have also collaborated with the Japan Ship Technology Research Association for large-scale maritime transport of liquid hydrogen onboard liquefied gas carriers.

From a long-range global perspective formed over the last 30 years of development, Fesmire said, “We are excited to see the latest hydrogen technology of NASA extended to maritime use and transportation in order to help the world become cleaner and more efficient.”

The Coast Guard’s prevention mission is to achieve marine safety, security and environmental stewardship by honoring the mariner, valuing the community, collaborating with partners and stakeholders and being innovative to achieve greater impact and efficiency. It is certain that within in this project alone, we are more than achieving every aspect of our mission and vision statement.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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