Hydrogen is already commercially viable in some industrial sectors, such as oil refining and fertilizer production, where the U.S. uses over 10 million metric tons per year, according to Dr. Sunita Satyapal, director of the Fuel Cell Technologies Office at the U.S. Department of Energy.
Most of the hydrogen for these industries is being cheaply produced on site at less than $2 per kilogram through natural gas reforming, and is being used right away at the plant to avoid hydrogen storage and distribution costs.
Although hydrogen can be produced inexpensively using diverse domestic resources — including natural gas, solar, wind, biomass and nuclear — distributing it can be costly, Satyapal said. For example, the current cost of dispensing high-purity, high-pressure hydrogen at stations for fuel-cell vehicles in California can range from $13 to $16 per kilogram, due largely to the cost of delivering the hydrogen from a remote production facility.
“Opportunities to produce the hydrogen on site using available regional resources improves the economics considerably,” she said.
Given such possibilities at ports and maritime facilities, hydrogen has the potential to be attractive in a variety of marine applications — especially in light of added benefits such as increased efficiency, lower emissions and reduced noise, both for pierside and onboard power, Satyapal said.