How Can Hydrogen Support the Decarbonisation of Ferries?
According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), tourism accounts for an estimated 8-11 per cent of global GHG emissions. Hydrogen Industry Leaders explores how hydrogen could provide a solution to decarbonising ferries.
To reduce the emissions of GHG emissions, the search is on for alternative fuels for the maritime industry, and hydrogen looks to be promising.
Hydrogen can meet the growing demand for zero-emission maritime transport
Hydrogen provides many benefits to the maritime sector. One of the main benefits is that hydrogen ferries will produce zero GHG emissions and no harmful pollutants, meaning that they will help to reduce air pollution and combat climate change.
Therefore, by focusing on hydrogen ferries, ferry operators can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and help to preserve marine environments.
Another benefit is that hydrogen ferries will typically have longer ranges compared to battery-electric ferries for example. Hydrogen fuel cells also offer quicker refuelling times compared to battery recharging, allowing for more efficient vessel operations.
In addition, hydrogen infrastructure can be easily scaled up to meet the growing demand for zero-emission maritime transport. This is because hydrogen fuel cells can be adapted to various vessel sizes and requirements, making them a flexible solution for different ferry routes.
Norway and the US are working to accelerate hydrogen in the maritime sector
Over the next few months, two hydrogen ferries are scheduled to start operating with passengers aboard. One is in San Francisco, USA, and one is on Norway’s west coast.
Norway’s MF Hydra is 270 feet long with a 56-foot beam. The ferry is connecting the national road between Hjelmeland – Skipavik – Nesvik in Rogaland, Norway.
It has a capacity of 299 passengers as well as 80 cars and 10 cargo trailers. The vessel was designed to use three tons of liquid hydrogen every three weeks.
In addition, the ferry has an 80 cbm hydrogen storage tank and is expected to reduce its annual carbon emissions by up to 95 per cent. It has a service speed of 9 knots.
The vessel was built by Norway’s Westcon Shipyard. Linde Engineering in Germany supplied the hydrogen systems while Danish Ballard developed the fuel cells that produce electricity from hydrogen.
Meanwhile, Westcon in Ølensvåg was responsible for equipping and completing the vessel together with system integrator SEAM from Karmøy. Seam has also supplied the automation scope for the hydrogen system, and Corvus Energy supplied the batteries.
San Francisco’s Sea Change vessel owned by SWITCH Maritime, has been built by All American Marine.
It is powered by hydrogen fuel cells and batteries, with the vessel designed to carry 84 passengers at a top speed of 22 knots.
This project is funded by private capital from SWITCH, an impact investment platform building the first fleet of exclusively zero-carbon maritime vessels to accelerate the decarbonisation and energy transition of the US maritime sector.
Including a US$3 million grant from the California Air Resources Board, the project has received municipal support.
Hydrogen fuel cells can be successfully utilised on commercial maritime vessels
In order to see hydrogen ferries become a reality, there are a few bottlenecks that need to be overcome.
The first is that new infrastructure will need to be built or retrofitted to be suited to support the production, storage, and distribution of hydrogen.
This will include establishing hydrogen production facilities, storage facilities, and refuelling stations along ferry routes.
Another challenge is cost as the cost of hydrogen production, storage, and fuel cells is relatively high compared to conventional propulsion systems.
Lowering the cost of hydrogen production and infrastructure is crucial to make hydrogen ferries economically viable and competitive.
Investments will also need to be seen to scale up hydrogen ferry operations. This will need to be seen both in infrastructure and technology.
Developing the appropriate regulations and standards for hydrogen infrastructure is crucial. Establishing a supportive regulatory framework that incentivises the adoption of hydrogen-powered vessels and promotes sustainable maritime transportation is key.
Addressing and overcoming these bottlenecks requires collaboration among industry leaders, governments, and researchers to advance hydrogen technology, reduce costs, and develop the necessary infrastructure.
Despite the challenges, hydrogen ferries hold promise as a sustainable and zero-emission solution for the maritime sector.
Seeing hydrogen ferries begin to emerge serves as proof that hydrogen fuel cells can be successfully utilised on commercial marine vessels and shows the potential of hydrogen for the maritime industry.
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