ABB Marine & Ports has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Maritime Partners and Elliott Bay Design Group to develop a hydrogen-powered inland towboat for operation in the US. The 27-metre Hydrogen One will be able to run for multiple days between fuellings.

The Hydrogen One is designed to push barges along inland waterways and is intended for deployment on the vast 14,500-mile waterway network that extends from the Port of New Orleans, operating along the Mississippi River and its many tributaries.

Hydrogen One will be able to travel with a load for about four days at the speed of 6 miles per hour, covering approximately 550 miles before the need to refuel. The vessel’s propulsion system will be capable of generating up to 2700 hp propulsion power, with 1700 hp generated by fuel cell and the remaining 1000 provided by the battery. The vessel will be operated by Maritime Partners, a New Orleans-based owner of close to 550 towboats, barges and other maritime assets.

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Methanol to hydrogen

The innovative towboat will convert methanol to hydrogen directly on board deploying a hydrogen generator by e1 Marine, which converts a mixture of methanol and water into fuel-cell grade high-purity hydrogen. Hydrogen generated by this process will be fed into the fuel cells to generate electricity.

Onboard hydrogen production will eliminate complexities typically associated with direct fuelling and storage of hydrogen. This results in no particulate matter emissions and less than eighty per cent CO2 emissions compared to an electrolyser solution using electrical power derived from fossil fuel sources. If methanol comes from a renewable energy source, the energy chain can be carbon-neutral.

Methanol is currently available as a bunker fuel at many terminals and is easy to handle and store. It can be transferred to the vessel in a manner similar to conventional fuels and does not need to be stored under pressure.

Integrated power system

Traditional towboats operate with the main engines and generators engaged at all times, which often means poor utilisation of onboard power and increases the fuel consumption. With an electric system, fuel cells and batteries can provide just the right amount of power exactly when it is needed.

Having pioneered the development of integrated power systems for a variety of ship types and marine fuels, ABB will provide the full electrical propulsion plant for the vessel, including electric motors, transformers, as well as the integration of fuel cells and batteries. The company’s Onboard DC Grid power distribution system will ensure that the fuel cell and battery output is delivered to the towboat’s subsystems in the most optimal way.

The overall power setup will be controlled by ABB’s Power and Energy Management System (PEMS), which will also increase fault tolerance and provide a high degree of reliability while ensuring the maximum lifetime for the batteries.

Picture by Elliott Bay Design Group.

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