Hydrogen-powered ferry prepares for launch in San Francisco

In what could prove to be a seminal moment for fuel technology in the US, hydrogen-powered ferry Sea Change has arrived in San Francisco and is preparing to begin operations. 

It is understood to be the first vessel of its kind in the United States, with services set to begin this spring.

Sea Change was towed into San Francisco this month and is on track to begin operation within weeks, once the crew has completed training, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Using 250 kilos of compressed hydrogen for fuel and hydrogen fuel cells to generate power, Sea Change will carry up to 75 passengers at speeds of about 16 knots. She will serve on San Francisco Bay Ferry’s network, which connects the downtown waterfront with Alameda, Oakland, Richmond and Vallejo.

The vessel’s development was underwritten by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which provided $3 million in funding for R&D, procurement and construction in 2018. 

With support from the  Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) and the California Infrastructure Economic Development Bank, the project also qualified for a loan guarantee for a $5 million construction loan from Key Bank. 

Hydrogen fuel will be provided by West Coast Clean Fuels, a joint venture between Pasha, World Fuel Services and Clean Marine Energy.

A handful of hydrogen-powered ferries are already in limited operation in Japan and Norway, including one vessel powered by a hydrogen-fuelled diesel cycle engine.

In Belgium, CMB shipping has introduced the world’s first hydrogen-powered tug, which began operations last year.