Scripps chooses designer for hydrogen-hybrid research ship

Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego has selected Glosten to construct a one-of-a-kind research vessel powered by alternative fuels. The new vessel will be equipped with an innovative hydrogen-hybrid propulsion system.

Scripps and Glosten have a history extending back more than six decades, when Glosten designed Scripps’ Floating Instrument Platform, also known as FLIP. Glosten was also involved in the midlife refurbishment of Scripps’ largest ship, RV Roger Revelle.

“Fundamentally, our ships must be dependable and capable in order to support the groundbreaking oceanographic research conducted by our experts. In addition, the vessel we envision must demonstrate that zero-emission power systems function efficiently under rigorous real-world conditions “Bruce Appelgate, associate director and ship operations manager at Scripps Oceanography, stated as much. It is the naval architect’s responsibility to provide the necessary engineering, design, and integration abilities for the overall success of the project.

Sandia National Laboratories, Glosten, and Scripps, with MARAD financing, concluded a feasibility study on the hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion system for the vessel in 2020. Last summer, the state legislature of California committed $35 million for the design and construction.

When finished, the vessel will support studies in the waters of California pertaining to marine fisheries, algae blooms, El Nio storm patterns, atmospheric rivers, ocean acidification, and other regionally significant issues. Additionally, the new vessel will transport up to 45 pupils and teachers every day for at-sea instruction. It will replace the RV Robert Gordon Sproul, a research vessel that has been in service for four decades and is nearing the end of its useful life.

The new vessel will be equipped with a hybrid propulsion system that combines hydrogen fuel cells and a traditional diesel-electric power plant to enable emission-free operation. The design is scaled so that the spacecraft can conduct 75 percent of its missions using only hydrogen. For longer operations, diesel generators will provide additional power.

As a research vessel, it will be equipped with advanced lab space and an array of instruments, such as acoustic Doppler current profilers, seafloor mapping systems, and fishery imaging systems.