Two studies—led by a team from Seattle City Light, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), and Sandia National Laboratories—are exploring the potential of shifting from fossil fuel to clean hydrogen as fuel to power medium-and heavy-duty vehicles.
The studies will assess the issues associated with scaling up hydrogen infrastructure large enough to serve the Port of Seattle’s maritime-related and electrical grid uses. The research is part of Seattle City Light's “Utility Next” portfolio, a collection of 17 prospective projects to enable Seattle’s vision of a clean energy future. Collectively, these projects will transform Seattle City Light's grid, meet future demand, and explore the future of clean energy development of the region.
These efforts are supported by two awards from the US Department of Energy (DOE) totaling $2.12 million to help meet emission reduction goals set by Seattle City Light and the Port of Seattle. The study team also includes partners at The Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) and PACCAR/Kenworth.
Supported by DOE’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office under the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the studies include:
Analytic Framework for Optimal Sizing of Hydrogen Fueling Stations for Heavy Duty Vehicles at Ports – A study exploring the potential of shifting from fossil fuel to clean hydrogen as fuel to power medium-and heavy-duty vehicles, including heavy equipment such as forklifts, drayage trucks and even cranes. The team is also exploring the concept’s scalability if future demand for hydrogen increases, including the potential to use the energy stored as hydrogen to power cruise or cargo ships while they’re being loaded and unloaded. ($1.35 million DOE award, $150,000 City Light = $1.5 million project total)
Large-scale Hydrogen Storage – Risk Assessment Seattle City Light and Port of Seattle – A study assessing the risks and benefits associated with scaling up clean hydrogen infrastructure large enough to serve multiple maritime-related and utility uses. Hydrogen at this larger scale could be used for propulsion for tugboats, commercial fishing vessels and passenger ferries and accommodate a significant portion of drayage trucks and cargo handling equipment serving the Port. This research and future work will likely shed light on what it will take to use clean hydrogen as a fuel source for larger ships too. ($770,000 DOE award, $185,000 City Light, $145,000 Port of Seattle = $1.1 million total)
Unlike coal and oil, hydrogen can be used to store renewable energy in a simple, sustainable cycle. This hydrogen is produced by using clean and renewable energy (such as hydroelectricity, solar and wind) to power an electrolyzer, producing pure hydrogen and pure oxygen. The versatile hydrogen that is produced can then be stored, used as fuel or converted back to electricity by a fuel cell, creating a backup system to power critical loads or support the electric grid. This flexibility supports resiliency, which is an essential component of the design being studied to ensure that the system could help to support port operations during an extreme event that causes disruption to the grid.
The hydrogen fuel can be stored in tanks for weeks to months with minimal energy loss, which may not be possible with short-duration energy storage methods such as batteries. This makes hydrogen a good solution for decarbonizing some energy loads that aren’t ideal for battery energy storage.
The stored hydrogen can power vehicles ranging in size from light-duty trucks to heavy equipment at ports such as forklifts, drayage trucks and even cranes. The team is also exploring the concept’s scalability if future demand for hydrogen increases, including the potential to use the energy stored as hydrogen to power cruise or cargo ships while they’re being loaded and unloaded.
Further, PNNL and Sandia experts will contribute expertise to help evaluate all the considerations needed to ensure future clean hydrogen use can be safely stored and handled while meeting the latest safety standards.
The Port of Seattle, along with partners from the NWSA and City Light, are also currently underway with planning for a full range of future energy needs across the Seattle harbor, through an effort called the Seattle Waterfront Clean Energy Strategy. The results of the PNNL studies will be an important input into that broader effort.
The team is projecting a two-year timeframe to produce the final project recommendations. City Light, PNNL and Sandia National Laboratories will continue to provide updates as significant milestones are met.