Hydrogen-Cell Fuel For Ports In Honolulu



Honolulu port has begun its test-run of the hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered generator in Hawaii.  The project is led by Sandia National Laboratories.  The aim is to rid ports of pollution from conventional fuel dependency and to produce clean energy.

The fuel cell gets its supply of hydrogen from Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu.  In a simple process of electrolysis, water molecules are split up into oxygen and hydrogen, using electricity supplied by Hickam’s solar-powered electrical grid.

Hawaiian Governor David Ige declared the state’s intention to go completely green by the year 2045.  Especially given the fact that theirs is the most oil-dependent state and they could be worst affected by global sea level rise.  Hawaii is now emerging as the pioneer in adopting emerging technologies and innovative energy solutions.


The project began in 2012, supported and funded by the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) in coalition with the US Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration, Planning for the Maritime Hydrogen Fuel Cell.  A 6-month plan was decided upon to deploy the hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered generator.

The hydrogen cell technology is the safest with no residual pollutants of greenhouse gases.  Therefore, this technology could be deployed in almost all major ports and berthing vessels to reduce environmental pollution drastically.  The greatest advantage is that it is far superior and energy efficient when compared to a diesel engine, as it supplies power as-and-when- needed.

Hydrogenics Corp has come up with a design of the hydrogen fuel cell generator unit.  It is made of 4 compartmentalised cells of 30 KW fuel cells each.  It also has a hydrogen storage system and a power conversion equipment.  All these are compactly packed in a 20-foot container.  It weighs 75kgs on board and has the capacity to generate power for 20 hours to 10 refrigerated containers.

At the port:

The unit is presently being deployed to refrigerate containers ashore.  The plan is to supply power to refrigerated barges that ply to and from the various Hawaiian Islands.  Young Brothers, a subsidiary of Foss Maritime Company are the primary barge operators.  They have been selected for this project to test and demonstrate the environmentally friendly hydrogen-cell power on and off shore, for the next six months.

Glenn Hong, President of  Young Brothers, is quoted to have said, “We are very pleased to have been selected to participate in this project with our many national and international partners in expanding this clean technology into new applications.”

The six-month test run will determine the project’s viability and challenges.  This period will provide data on the costs of operating and other newer parameters that may be need modification before this can be enforced as a full-scale commercial operation.

Joe Pratt, Sandia’s project lead is quoted to have said, “The long-range goal is to develop a commercial-ready technology that can be widely used at other ports,” said Pratt.  “The project team sees a strong market need and desire for a fuel cell solution, not only at maritime ports but also for users who aren’t connected to a grid.  That could extend to developing countries and remote locations worldwide.”

Source: Sandia National Laboratories