Unitrove Plans to Build World's First H2 Bunkering Facility

Hydrogen-powered vessels are just beginning their debut this year, and bunkering faclities are a key piece of the puzzle (Tsuneishi file image)

Published Jul 23, 2021 7:46 PM by The Maritime Executive

UK-based engineering firm Unitrove is planning on expanding its portfolio to include a liquid hydrogen bunkering terminal, which it believes will be the first of its kind in the world.

Unitrove was the developer of the UK's first LNG bunkering terminal, which opened in 2015 with support from Shell. The company is an active promoter of dual-fuel technology for all modes of transport, and it is now working to build the world’s first liquefied hydrogen (LH) bunkering facility for fueling zero-emission ships. The company also plans to build the world’s first liquefied-to-compressed gaseous hydrogen (L-CGH) bunkering facility, which would allow it to service vessels built with less costly compressed-H2 fuel handling equipment.

According to Unitrove, investing in H2 bunkering facilities will be an essential part of moving the energy transition forward. "Today, hydrogen fuelling infrastructure for ships is non-existent, and there will be no drive for zero-emission ships without zero-emission bunkering infrastructure," the firm said in recent testimony to the UK Parliament.

On Friday, the company announced that it plans to showcase its bunkering technology at the UN COP26 conference, which will be held in Glasgow in November.

"We already see very early signs of light-duty vessels being battery-driven or powered by compressed gaseous hydrogen, but liquid hydrogen will allow us to serve the heavier portion of the shipping fleet where we hope to have a much larger impact," Unitrove CEO Steven Lua told H2-View. "We are also exploring options including ammonia, liquid organic hydrogen carriers, and solid hydrogen in the form of sodium borohydride."

Unitrove has stiff competition if it wants to build the world's first H2 bunkering facility. Norway is developing the world’s first ferry powered by liquefied hydrogen, the MF Hydro, which is due to be ready in late 2021. It will run on green hydrogen supplied from an electrolyzer plant in Germany. Industrial gas supplier Linde, which will be providing the fuel, is building out the shoreside bunkering and distribution facility that will supply its operations.

In Japan, Kawasaki Heavy Industries recently built the world’s first liquefied hydrogen carrier, Suiso Frontier, and Japanese shipbuilder Tsuneishi Facilities and Craft built a new hydrogen ferry, the unusually-named Hydro Bingo. NYK, MOL, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Yanmar also have H2-powered ferry projects in the works, and CMB has partnered with Tsuneishi to build a groundbreaking hydrogen-powered tugboat.