Seattle City Light, National Labs Studying Hydrogen’s Potential As A Truck Fuel

Washington State's Seattle City Light, in partnership with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Sandia National Laboratories, will embark on studies to explore the potential of using hydrogen instead of fossil fuels for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.

The studies are being supported by awards totaling $2.12 million from the Department of Energy (DOE), and they are designed to help Seattle City Light and the Port of Seattle to meet their emission reduction goals. Partners in the studies also includes The Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) and PACCAR/Kenworth.

The City of Seattle has set a goal of reducing total core greenhouse gas emissions 58 percent by 2030 from 2008 levels and becoming carbon dioxide neutral by 2050.

One of the studies, Analytic Framework for Optimal Sizing of Hydrogen Fueling Stations for Heavy Duty Vehicles at Ports, will explore 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 cranes.

The study will also look at the potential to scale up the technology if 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.

That study is funded with a $1.35 million award from DOE and $150,000 from Seattle City Light.

The second study, Large-scale Hydrogen Storage – Risk Assessment, Seattle City Light and the Port of Seattle will assess the risks and benefits associated with scaling hydrogen produced using renewable resources to a level large enough to serve multiple maritime-related and utility uses.

At that scale, hydrogen could potentially be used for propulsion for tugboats, commercial fishing vessels and passenger ferries and to accommodate a significant portion of drayage trucks and cargo handling equipment serving the port. The research will also look at the requirements of using clean hydrogen as a fuel for larger ships.

The second study is being funded with a $770,000 award from the DOE, $185,000 from Seattle City Light, and $145,000 from the Port of Seattle.

The project partners are projecting a two-year timeframe to produce the final project recommendations.

“It is more important than ever for Seattle City Light to collaborate with our customers who want to confront the climate crisis by decarbonizing their operations,” Debra Smith, Seattle City Light’s general manager and CEO, said in a statement. “We are excited to partner with these agencies to implement a cleaner future for our customers at the port and our region as a whole.”

Several public power utilities across the country are exploring the emissions reduction potential of hydrogen fuel, including the New York Power Authority, OUC in Florida, and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in California.

In the Pacific Northwest, Douglas County Public Utility District is working under a $1.9 million grant to demonstrate the first hydrogen fueling station for fuel cell electric vehicles in Washington state. And the Eugene Water and Electric Board in Oregon is developing a renewable hydrogen production facility.

The American Public Power Association recently issued a report that offers a perspective on where the emerging hydrogen market is in the U.S. and globally, what is driving the growing interest in hydrogen and