HyZET: A Design and Feasibility Study of a Fuel Cell-Powered Commercial Harbor Craft

Design of a Hydrogen Fuel Cell-Powered Tugboat for the Port of Angeles




Pasadena, CA

Recipient Location


Senate District


Assembly District



Amount Spent



Project Status

Projects Updates/The Results

Following approval at the March 2021 business meeting, this project was executed and kicked off in April 2021. CALSTART is in the process of finalizing subcontracts and Technical Advisory Committee members with each member of the HyZET consortium. CALSTART is facing some delays due to its current contract backlog.

The Issue

In response to global initiatives from the International Maritime Organization and California's emission reduction targets, the marine industry is exploring options to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. Although liquid hydrogen (LH2) has been used in land-based industries, it has not been tested to scale in the marine sector. Furthermore, marine-ready fuel cells and LH2 storage has only recently become available. The safety, technical, and economic challenges related to using LH2 onboard a marine vessel need to be addressed.

Project Innovation

This project is supporting the Hydrogen Zero Emission Tugboat (HyZET) consortium, which comprises leading maritime stakeholders with expertise in electric propulsion system integration, fuel cell energy solution production, feasibility analysis, technology qualification, independent safety and quality assurance, vessel operation and design, LH2 integration, and upstream LH2 production. The HyZET consortium is developing an actionable hydrogen fuel cell-powered tugboat design that will be ready for construction and implementation at the Port of Los Angeles. The vessel design and feasibility study is addressing challenges related to using LH2 to power the tugboat, including how LH2 can be produced and delivered to the port.

Project Benefits

This project will assess the viability of megawatt-scale hydrogen fuel cell-powered harbor craft at California ports, enabling the economic assessment of hydrogen as a zero-emission fuel at scale. The project will accelerate the decarbonization of the marine sector by identifying and addressing challenges to using LH2 onboard a tugboat. A fuel cell-powered tugboat operating in the Port of Los Angeles is estimated to consume up to 500 kg of hydrogen per day. Deploying this type of tugboat would significantly increase the demand for hydrogen at the port complex and improve the economics of future hydrogen infrastructure investments. Furthermore, use of renewable natural gas and excess curtailed renewable wind and solar electricity in the production of hydrogen can help further reduce the climate impacts of port operations.

Lower Costs

Lower Costs

This study aims to identify ideal hydrogen production pathways to support the HyZET tugboat operation and reduce the overall cost of delivered hydrogen. As the volume of hydrogen increases to support the HyZET tugboat, the costs of similar transitions for other categories can be reduced by using shared infrastructure at scale.

Environmental & Public Health

Environmental & Public Health

Deploying a single hydrogen fuel cell-powered tugboat at the Port of Los Angeles can result in 180,000 gal/yr of avoided diesel consumption and 2,240 metric tons/yr of CO2 emissions savings, assuming use of hydrogen sourced from 100 percent renewable energy.

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