Liquefied Hydrogen Bunker Vessel Designed

Credit: Wilhelmsen Ship Management

By The Maritime Executive 01-29-2019 07:10:07

Moss Maritime, Equinor, Wilhelmsen and DNV GL have developed a design for a liquefied hydrogen bunker vessel. 

Liquefied hydrogen at a temperature of -253°C is expected to offer advantages over pressurized hydrogen gas in relation to transportation costs. The project, sponsored by Innovation Norway, was launched to find solutions for storage and handling of this demanding fuel on a vessel.

The 9,000-cubic-meter vessel has been developed to provide liquefied hydrogen bunkering services to merchant ships in addition to open sea transport. Equinor believes hydrogen may represent an attractive energy solution for the sectors that are hard to decarbonize and currently outside the scope of renewable solutions like batteries. Long haul maritime shipping is one of these, says Steinar Eikaas, VP for Low Carbon Solutions in Equinor.

Håkon Lenz, VP Europe and Americas of Wilhelmsen Ship Management, adds: “We see hydrogen as a possible fuel for the future. The commercial feasibility of such a vessel is depending on the overall hydrogen market development. Once market signals show that there is a need for big scale liquefied hydrogen, we and our partners are ready to take this design to the next level.”

Hydrogen as a Fuel

Once liquefied, hydrogen is reduced to 1/800th of its volume, compared to that of its gas phase, facilitating a more-efficient distribution. As a fuel, hydrogen does not release any CO2, and liquefied hydrogen can be used to charge batteries for electrical propulsion via fuel cell technology. 

Some 55 million tons per annum (Mtpa) of hydrogen is currently made every year for industrial feedstock, mostly for oil refining and making chemicals. In contrast, only 0.002 percent of hydrogen production, about 1,000 tons annually, is produced for use as an energy source. Most, if not all, of this currently powers hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles. 

Hydrogen propulsion's economic competitiveness and emissions profile vary depending upon the source of the fuel. Almost all commercially-produced hydrogen is currently derived from natural gas or coal gas. Due to the carbon dioxide created by the refining process, its well-to-propeller CO2 emissions can be higher than those from heavy fuel oil, according to a recent review by DNV GL. By contrast, hydrogen produced using renewable electricity and water electrolysis is nearly emissions-free - but can be very costly.

DNV GL predicts significant long-term rises in these numbers, with low-carbon hydrogen becoming an effective decarbonization agent to mitigate climate change. For example, DNV GL estimates that demand in 2050 for hydrogen solely for energy could range from 39–161 Mtpa. 

Other Maritime Projects

Late last year, MAN Cryo, shipowner Fjord1 and designer Multi Maritime in Norway announced the development of a marine fuel-gas system for liquefied hydrogen. The system is designed for vessels, such as ferries, employed on relatively short routes, and it has been granted preliminary approval in principle by DNV GL. The system has a scalable design and is suited for both above- and below-deck applications.

Also last year, DNV GL partnered with Sandia, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the naval architect firm Glosten to assess the technical, regulatory and economic feasibility of a hydrogen fuel-cell coastal research vessel. The project found that a 10-knot vessel with 2,400 nautical mile range, able to perform 14 Scripps science missions was feasible. The vessel could be refueled with liquid hydrogen at four different ports of call along the U.S. west coast. No “show-stopping” issues were identified by either DNV GL or the United States Coast Guard. The feasibility of the Zero-V, as well as the ability to refuel it with approximately 11,000 kg of hydrogen, has positive implications for large hydrogen fueled vessels such as cargo vessels and cruise ships. The work was funded by the U.S. Maritime Administration.

In another maritime hydrogen development, Ferguson Marine Engineering is building the world’s first fuel cell ferry that will use hydrogen harvested entirely from renewable sources. The ferry will operate around Scotland’s Orkney Islands, which are producing hydrogen in volume from renewable energy. The vessel will be delivered in 2020 with steel cut around October this year.

In the U.S., a consortium of federal, state and private partners has begun the construction of a new, first-of-its-kind ferry powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The 70-foot catamaran design is being built by Bay Ship & Yacht Co. for Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine, with funding from the state's California Climate Investments program. It is intended as a demonstrator project to showcase the potential of hydrogen fuel cell power. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is administering the project, and local ferry company Red and White Fleet will handle marine operations. Other key partners include BAE Systems, Incat Crowther, Hexagon Composites, the Port of San Francisco, Sandia National Laboratories and fuel cell manufacturer Hydrogenics. The new vessel is expected to begin its operations in 2019 on a three month trial in San Francisco Bay.