The First Methanol Towboat to Launch in 2023

M/V Hydrogen One, the world’s first methanol towboat, will start chartering in 2023 to meet the demand for sustainable towboat operations.

M/V Hydrogen One, the world’s first methanol towboat, will become available for charter in 2023 to meet the pressing demand for sustainable towboat operations. This is a project of the Canada-based Maritime Partners in cooperation with Elliott Bay Design Group, e1 Marine, and ABB.

Towboat Challenges

Towboats pose substantial challenges in terms of their inherent size, space, and weight limitations. Batteries are only suitable for operation on fixed routes and can recharge daily. Additionally, a towboat’s limited storage capacity restricts the use of pressurized or cryogenically stored gases as fuels. There are also very few dockside facilities to load such marine fuels, which severely constrains a vessel’s range and functionality.


Hydrogen One will be IMO 2030 compliant and meet all requirements of the US Coast Guard’s Subchapter M regulations. Moreover, Elliott Bay Design Group designed the vessel using proven, efficient technologies. Along with ABB’s electrical power distribution and automation while also e1 Marine’s methanol-to-hydrogen fuel cell. The subject vessel will be able to perform at standard operational speeds for up to 550 miles without refueling.

Furthermore, methanol is available in 88 of the world’s top 100 ports and is commonly transported by towboats. Hence, there is safe refueling for the methanol towboat almost anywhere without any costly diversions. 

Hydrogen One will use the e1 Marine reformer technology to generate hydrogen from methanol on-demand. Therefore, it makes it considerably safer than transferring and storing hydrogen directly. Note that the ship’s crew will require minimal additional training to use the technology.
The methanol reformed hydrogen will then direct to the fuel cells in order to provide power. As a hybrid, the methanol towboat will be capable of distributing the power from fuel cells to batteries or motors. Alternatively, both fuel cells and batteries can contribute to powering the motors to achieve fine flexibility.

Features & Capabilities
  • 550 mile / 4 day range between refueling
  • Scalable from 1,700 hp to 3,500 hp
  • Refuel safely and conveniently virtually anywhere
  • 24-hour zero emission standby
  • No shorepower connection required
  • L-drive propulsion for optimal maneuverability
methanol towboat
Figure. Isometric logic diagram
Views from each side

“Shipowners have been understandably reluctant to commit to low carbon fuels until the infrastructure is available to refuel their vessels. The Hydrogen One solves that problem by using methanol, which is safe and readily available worldwide. When the Hydrogen One joins our fleet of 1,600 vessels, it will not only provide excellent emissions reduction capabilities but highly functional, reliable, and cost-effective operations.”

Austin Sperry, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Maritime Partners

“Governed by ABB’s power management and distribution technology, the system consumes methanol fuel on-demand. This philosophy is much more efficient than a traditional towboat, where you need both main engines as well as a generator online at all times. Through this design and our technology we’re enabling not only huge operational and cost efficiencies, but making the most environmentally friendly mode of transport even more sustainable.”

Dave Lee, ABB Marine & Ports

“Converting methanol to hydrogen reduces the CO2 output and our reformer technology eliminates the complexities of direct fuelling and storage of gas marine fuels. By producing hydrogen at the point of consumption from a mixture of methanol and water, e1 Marine’s system enables the safe, efficient, and economic use of hydrogen as a marine fuel. The technology is ideal for anything that requires continuous power over extended periods, including work boats and medium-range passenger vessels, or to provide backup power in ports and harbours.”

Robert Schluter, Managing Director, e1 Marine

Hydrogen One is the model for what is likely to be the only practical and commercially available technology that will enable smaller vessels to run for multiple days on a single fuel load and without the need for dedicated refuelling facilities. Our naval architects have optimised the balance between reformers, fuel cells and batteries to maximise range and power while minimising operational costs.”

Mike Complita, Principal and Vice President of Strategic Expansion, Elliott Bay Design Group

See also: World’s First Hydrogen Powered Fishing Vessel, The First Tug in the World with Methanol Fuel Cells, Methanol-Fuelled Crew Transfer Vessel

Source: EBDG