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Ferries at the forefront of innovation.

With decarbonisation at the top of the maritime agenda, LR's Jane Jenkins, Passenger Ship Specialist, talks about how the ferry sector is playing a central role in trialling hydrogen solutions.

There is no stopping the pace of technological development, it increases at astonishing speed as do the complex challenges the shipping industry faces. The trick is identifying the elements that meet needs within the requisite time and budget and this involves the identification of a clear framework of technological priorities. Safety is paramount but so too is the environment and sustainability. For the latter regulation is a key driver, with local requirements, customer expectations and lobby groups also influencing technological priorities.

Carbon, the big-ticket item

In tackling climate change, decarbonisation is a key focus for the shipping industry. The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Initial Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Strategy represents a significant ambition for the maritime sector. It sets a GHG reduction pathway of at least 50% by 2050 based on a 2008 baseline, with a clear emphasis on reducing 100% by 2050.

IMO’s GHG strategy is being further endorsed by individual countries or regions, such as Norway, UK, Japan and USA, who are issuing their own mandates based on local needs. For example, Japan currently imports most of its energy and is therefore looking at new strategies to manage this. Similarly, Norway released its Green Coastal Shipping Programme strategy a few years ago for both local and visiting vessels, with the country looking to cut GHG emissions from domestic shipping operations by half by 2030. Meanwhile, in July this year, the UK Government released a Clean Maritime Plan which proports that all new ships for UK waters ordered from 2025 should be designed with zero-emission capable technologies.

The maritime community is working hard at improving efficiencies and introducing alternative fuels. Meanwhile, oil majors are investing in solutions to significantly reduce carbon footprint of their fuels and lubricants. Progress is being made by the industry, but zero emission vessels (ZEVs) need to enter the world’s fleet in 2030 and form a significant proportion of new builds from then on if shipping is to successfully meet IMO ambitions.

The ferry industry, due to its regular and localised route patterns, has always been a leader in deployment technologies and the potential use of hydrogen as a fuel is being explored by the sector as a way of meeting the IMO’s GHG ambition, either for the use of fuel cells which convert hydrogen to electricity or in hybrid applications, combining batteries and hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engines.

An example is Compagnie Maritime Belge (CMB) Hydroville - the first LR-classed vessel to use hydrogen to fuel a diesel engine. The 14m ferry, which can carry 16 people, incorporates two hydrogen fuelled internal combustion engines (H2ICED), which produce a total shaft power of 441kW. This vessel is a showcase for the use of clean fuels and is primarily a testbed for hydrogen technology with a vision for applications on much larger vessels. Its hydrogen bunkers are supplied by Air Liquide and Hydroville is used to carry CMB’s staff to and from its Antwerp offices during their morning commute. This project presented a challenge because hydrogen-injected diesel engines are not covered by standard LR rules. Instead, a risk-based design approach to approval was used.

An early adopter, CMB is now looking at further projects and is involved in  Hydrotug - the world’s first hydrogen-powered tug that will be used in the Port of Antwerp. Although not part of the ferry sector, this project is worth noting as this65-tonne bollard tug will feature two dual fuel V12 BeHydro engines and is being developed in partnership Anglo Belgian Corporation.

Short-sea and in-shore shipping projects related to the ferry sector

LR is also involved in the Hyseas III project, which is a part of the development of a hydrogen economy on the Orkney Islands with the ambition of an emission free zone for the Islands. The project which began 1 July this year, will develop, construct and test a hybrid fuel cell system in readiness for integration into a new ship. This ship will be the world’s first seagoing car and passenger ferry fuelled by hydrogen fuel cells. The vessel will operate in and around Orkney in northern Scotland, using hydrogen that is already being produced using otherwise-wasted energy from windfarms. The project is the final part of an ambitious three-part program started in 2013 looking into the theory of hydrogen powered vessels.

LR is involved in the Interreg 2 Seas project ISHY, which is assessing the development, testing and validation of technical tools and socio-economic models (in business cases) for the implementation of hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell technologies in vessels and ports. This initiative seeks to demonstrate the feasibility of these technologies by retrofitting different types of existing vessels, different kind of new built vessels and new bunkering facilities in ports, in order to increase the adoption likelihood of this low or zero carbon technology in a sector with high impact potential.

LR is also participating in HyMethShip along with 13 partners from 6 EU member states which aims to integrate a membrane reactor for CO2 capture, a storage system for CO2 and use methanol as the source of energy for a hydrogen-fuelled combustion engine. The proposed solution reforms methanol to hydrogen, which is then burned in internal combustion engine that has been upgraded to operate with multiple fuel types and specially optimised for hydrogen use.

With a global energy sector in flux, the versatility of hydrogen is attracting stronger interest from a diverse group of governments and companies – not least the maritime sector.

Horizons December

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