Grid-Powered Coastal Shipping

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Grid-Powered Coastal Shipping

I would like to see somebody do a feasibility study of a Grid-Powered short sea shipping ship.

The ship would be electric drive, using stored power. The power would be stored in something that acts like a battery….This is probably hydrogen, made by electrolysis of seawater, but we could look at ‘real’ batteries too, maybe lithium ion or whatever. The stored power would be used for the coastal hop, with the assumption that the ship ‘refuels’ at each stop. (This keeps the storage requirement small enough.)

If the storage is batteries, then it’s just an electric drive ship and the study considers the weight of batteries that would be required for practical range between practical port pairs, say Jacksonville – Charleston, or something.

If the storage is Hydrogen then the ship is probably diesel mechanical drive, burning the hydrogen in an engine. Same issues as above, since storage of hydrogen is no simple matter.

In both cases the “Ah Ha!” is that the ship is really running on the shore-side electrical grid, whether by storing this electricity in batteries or by storing it in the form of hydrogen. By running on the grid the ship owner is somewhat buffered from the price volatility of marine fuel – he is in effect running on Coal, Natural Gas, HydroPower, Nuclear, or a combination of all of the above.

Is this ‘economic insulation’ enough to pay for the inefficiencies in this machinery plant?

How about when you throw in the benefits of moving the combustion emissions away from the coast? (This ship’s Carbon emissions are waaaay over there wherever that central powerplant is located, they are NOT coming out of ownship’s stack.)

I think this would be an interesting study, but unfortunately I haven’t found anybody willing to sponsor it.

There are also enhancements that could be brought in to play: Paul Pollinger suggested "Your study would be worth while especially on river tugs for a number of reasons. The USACE reports that the average river tow is fairly short. The tugs themselves often do not utilize the full draft available and in the 1200' and 600' second cut tows there is often extra space in the lock. So while adding weight is not the first thing one wants to do, in this case the total life cycle cost may be very favorable. "

This seems very good to me, because in turn Further, the use of a barge train opens the possibility of having a “fuel module” consisting of one or more “electricity storage barges”. These might either be barges of batteries or barges of hydrogen. Point being that they could be dropped off when ‘empty’ and recharged at the shore facility. The tug then picks up a full one and continues on its way. (Think of dropping off BBQ grill propane cylinders, vice waiting for the re-fill time. Sparkletts water bottles. Milk bottles on the porch. There are many examples of this paradigm.)

Best regards all,

Chris McKesson

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