Skip to main content

Realising the world's first sea-going hydrogen-powered RoPax ferry and a business model for European islands

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - HySeas III (Realising the world's first sea-going hydrogen-powered RoPax ferry and a business model for European islands)

Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2019-12-31

The marine sector acounts for a significant proportion of global and European carbon and other emissions to atmosphere and are one of the factors playing into gloabl warming. Currently marine transport is completely reliant on fossil fuels. While there is some potential to reduce emissions by making fossil fuelled marine transport more efficient, that potential is quite limited. Battery-electric options (batteries charged from shore) offer only very short range marine transport and clearly alternative zero carbon (and other emissions) fuels are required to eliminate marine emissions.

Hydrogen is one of the likely candidates to replace fossil fuels in marine transport applications and HySeas III sets out to explore that option by developing a hyrdogen fuelled vehicles and passenger ferry. The availability in coastal areas of both on and offshore shore renewables gives rise to the possibility of the hydrogen fuel being produced from wholly renewable energy sources.

The formal objectives of the HySeas III project are as follows:

1. Develop, construct, certify and validate an innovative hydrogen fuel cell drive system and (following proof of this) to construct, launch and monitor a prototype, sea-going hydrogen Passenger/vehicle ferry.
2. Develop business models to assist ferry operators and coastal/islands authorities to optimise the land-side interfaces and overcome the capital investment barriers to the wider roll-out of hydrogen-powered ferries.
3. Encourage replication by disseminating exploitable lessons to the European stakeholder communities.
The first project period has delivered strong performance in vessel systems development, market and lifecycle (emissions) analysis and also in dissemination work.

Systems development developped from first considering the duty cycle of the target replacement route and vessel to be replaced in the Orkney Islands.

Unfortunately, the project's vessel design and development partner went into legal administration (failed) during the first reporting period and this has caused delays - the key first period testing of the full-scale vessel power plant has been significantly delayed. However, a mini-system employing a 30kW road transport fuel cell module, complete with fuel handling and safety systems, was constructed at Kongsberg in Norway (KM). This allowed control and management systems development following the capture of module behavioural characteristics - smaller modules are known to behave in much the same way as the larger 100kW modules produced and marinised for HySeas III (by Ballard Power Systems Europe). Consumed energy for the vessel has been calculated based on different energy management strategies.* A good deal of the design work (systems development) for the full-scale power plant testing milestone has been completed, most of the equipment has been gathered and the project hopes to begin testing of the full-scale vessel power plant shortly.

*(All hydrogen fuelled vessels will be battery-hybridised. The use of batteries allows the fuel cell modules to be operated only in their most efficent mode during normal operation, with battery capacity being used to deal to with short-term 'transients').

The project had a significant level of engagement with regulatory and insurance bodies. Design is following the Lloyd's Register 'Risk Based Design' process, which assesses each element on its own merits with a view to engineering-out where possible and otherwise minimising risk. Aspects such as fire protection and firefighting, containment, detection and emergency shutdown (ESD), ventilation, hazardous area zoning are considered. This engagement has involved 3rd parties such as battery and hydrogen fuel tank suppliers.

Engagement with the European marine sector began to develop a picture of where and how hydrogen might begin to penetrate the sector as a fossil fuel replacement. There is little understanding among the marine community of what this might mean. The infamous Hindenberg is not slow to come up in discussions - there is little awareness that the safety considerations are not hugely different to using LNG as a marine fuel, or that the town gas used in homes and businesses across Europe and indeed the world for well over a century was in fact c.50% hydrogen. Simple conversations with the community are useful even to spread understanding at such a basic level.

Whilst the specifics will vary case-by-case (vessel size and route/duty cycle), technical calculations tend to suggest that hydrogen may replace fossil fuels in short to medium-range marine applications, at least in respect of hydrogen stored as compressed gas. Hydrogen as a gas is awkward and bulky to store in significant weights and it may be that liquid hydrogen or liquid ammonia (NH3, as a dense store of hydrogen) may be more appropriate emissions-free marine fuels for larger vessel and longer range applications. Setting the maximum instantaneous vessel power at 2MW and below allowed the project to map the European incidience of ferry vessels of that scale (600-700 such vessels) and that in itself mapped the most likely areas of early uptake across Europe. Unsurprisingly, that produced a focus on Scandanavia, the Baltic and the North Sea/Atlantic - but there is density in the Mediterranean and the Adriatic. The greatest density by far is off the West Coast of Norway with significant density around Scotland's West and North coasts. The main density of potential marine opportunities is, and as expected, coincident with areas with significant renewab
Progress was made in the development of a marine HFC power system with a mini-system constructed and tested as a precursor to the full scale plant being delivered. Other progress was seen in the development of core technical components for such systems. There was also progress in the development of safety considerations in conjunction with those formally responsible for maintaining safety standards at sea. One of the first ever lifecycle impact analyses was developed for comparing hydrogen and conventional fuelled vessels with publications deriving from that. Dissemination activities delivered a considerable amount of interest with web and social media formats attracting interest from all over the planet.
hyseas4.jfif