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Methanol Fuel Cell Towboat set for 2023 Debut

The world's first methanol ­fueled towboat is set to join the fleet of Metairic, La.-based Maritime Partners LLC and become available for charter in 2023 to meet the pressing demand for sus­tainable towboat operations.

The vessel, the M/V Hydrogen One, will be IMO 2030 compliant, meet the USCG's Subchapter M requirements, and have an operational range of 550 miles before refueling. Maritime Partners, in cooper­ation with Elliott Bay Design Group, CL Marine, and ABB, are developing it.

Decarbonizing Towboats

Decarbonizing the towboat sector poses substantial challenges, particularly due to the inherent size, space, and weight limi­tations of towboats. Batteries are only suitable for boats that operate on fixed routes and can recharge daily, and a towboat's limited storage capacity restricts the use- of pressurized or cryogenically stored gases as fuels. There are also very few dockside facilities to load such marine fuels, which severely con­strains a vessel's range and functionality.

Elliott Bay Design Group, Seattle, Wash., using proven, efficient technol­ogy throughout, from ABB's electrical power distribution and automation to CL Marine's methanol-to-hydrogen fuel cell, has designed the boat.

Methanol to Hydrogen

Methanol is a common towboat cargo, and it is available in 88 of the world's top 100 ports. This availability enables a vessel to refuel safely almost anywhere without the need for costly diversions.

Thc M/V Hydrogen One's use of CL Marine's reformer technology generates hydrogen from methanol on-demand, which also makes it considerably safer than transferring and storing hydrogen directly, and the vessel's crew will require minimal additional training to use the technology.

"Shipowners have been understand­ably reluctant to commit to low carbon fuels until the infrastructure is available to refuel their vessels," said Austin Sperry, co-founder and chief operating officer at Maritime Partners. "'The M/V Hydrogen One solves that problem by using meth­anol, which is safe and readily available worldwide. When the M/V Hydrogen One joins our fleet of 1,600 vessels, it will not only provide excellent emissions reduc­tion capabilities but highly functional, reliable, and cost-effective operations."

Breaking With Tradition

"The U.S. towboat market is one of the most traditional in the world, so it's important to recognize what this represents: the first step in a shift from diesel electric to methanol electric, and a major advancement towards zero emissions;" said Dave lee at ABB Marine & Ports. Governed by ABB's power management and distribution technology, the system consumes methanol fuel on ­demand. This philosophy is much more efficient than a traditional towboat, where you need both main engines as well as a generator on line at all times.

"Through this design and our tech­nology we're enabling not only huge operational and cost efficiencies, but making the most environmentally friendly mode of transport even more sustainable," he added.

"Converting methanol to hydrogen reduces the CO2 output and our reformer technology eliminates the complexities of direct fueling and storage of gas marine fuels," said Robert Schluter, managing director at CL Marine.

"By producing hydrogen at the point of consumption from a mixture of methanol and water, e1 Marine's system enables the safe efficient, and economic use of hydrogen as a marine fuel. The technology is ideal for anything that requires continuous power over extended periods, including work boats and medium-range passenger vessels, or to provide backup power in ports and harbors."

"M/V Hydrogen One is the model for what is likely to be the only practical and commercially available technology that will enable smaller vessels to run for multiple days on a single fuel load and without the need for dedicated re-fueling facilities" said Mike Complita, principal and vice-presi­dent of strategic expansion at Elliott Bay Design Group.

"Our naval architects have optimized the balance between reformers, fuel cells and batteries to maximize range and power while minimizing operational costs. This design and the technologies it uses can be easily scaled to suit any vessel with a similar need to operate on variable routes with multiple-day transit times, and further enhances Elliott Bay Design Group's market-leading expertise in this growing sector."

TTB 2022

Complita will be speaking more about the Hydrogen One Towboat at Marine Log's Tugs, Towboats & Barges (TTB) 2022 event in Mobile, Ala., on March 29-30.

The event will take place at the Renais­sance Mobile Riverview Plaza hotel in partnership with The American Water­ways Operators (AWO). The theme and focus will be on "Readying the fleet and workforce for the future." In addition to two days of in-person discussions and dynamic Q&A sessions. the event will feature ample opportu­nities for networking.

Visit marinelog. com/tugs for more info.


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