Future Proof Shipping moves towards zero emissions with hydrogen box ship conversion
Future Proof Shipping (FPS) has taken its first leap towards zero emissions with upcoming plans to retrofit its first vessel to run on hydrogen.
110-m by 11.45-m inland container vessel Maas will be 100% powered by hydrogen at the end of 2021. It will be retrofitted at the Holland Shipyards Group’s yard in Hardinxveld throughout Q3 2021. When service resumes, Maas will continue shipping container cargo between Rotterdam and Antwerp.
FPS is a tonnage provider, offering zero-emissions inland and short-sea vessels for charter. It also offers advisory and project development support by way of its integrated management, technical, financial and commercial services, helping its clients to take the first step towards zero-emissions shipping.
FPS chief executive Richard Klatten tells CST “We have already taken the first leap towards zero emissions with upcoming plans to retrofit our first vessel to run on hydrogen. This vessel is called Maas and it will 100% powered by hydrogen by the end of 2021.”
In Q3 2021, the internal combustion engine will be removed, and the new zero-emissions propulsion system, including fuel cells, a battery, an electric motor and hydrogen storage will be installed on board.
When it comes to Maas, FPS is developing a modular system comprised of electric motors, hydrogen tanks, a fuel-cell system (necessary for converting hydrogen into electricity) and a battery system.
The hydrogen tanks, the fuel cells and the battery system are separate units that can be removed for maintenance or replacement purposes. Mr Klatten comments “Therefore, if improved fuel cells are introduced to the market, the vessel can switch to those. Since regulations do not yet provide for bunker procedures for hydrogen, we have opted to replace the hydrogen containers with full ones as soon as they are empty.”
Speaking about retrofit challenges, Mr Klatten says “Retrofitting means replacing the internal combustion technology with hydrogen technology. Hydrogen has low volumetric energy density and therefore requires more space. It is also highly flammable and in combination with high pressures, it has a high explosion potential.
“Based on the operational profile, readiness, and price, we chose PEM fuel cells and compressed hydrogen.”
The hydrogen and fuel-cell system will be installed in the cargo space, with the hydrogen being placed in two 40-ft containers (approximately 1,000 kg at 300 bar) above the fuel-cell system. The fuel-cell system will have a triple redundant 825-kW installed fuel-cell capacity, propulsion and auxiliary power and a 504-kWh lithium-ion battery pack for peak shaving, emergency and bridging power. The system will include a 750-V DC bus bar, e-motor for propulsion and additional sensors. Natural ventilation will be used where possible.
Mr Klatten says “Retrofitting an existing vessel with zero-emissions technology based on hydrogen requires some compromises regarding space. It is a complex design requiring considerable attention to detail regarding ventilation, safety and operations.”
He adds that while a hydrogen propulsion system is more expensive than the conventional system, when this price difference is included in the end price of a product, “the difference is very small”. He adds “Depending on the type of the product, it could be in the order of cents per item, and for some producers this is a very good investment.”
In terms of bunkering, the company is in the final stages of negotiations with a green hydrogen supplier to secure its fuel supply. FPS has developed a modular system comprised of electric motors, hydrogen tanks, a fuel-cell system (necessary for converting hydrogen into electric power) and a battery system. Mr Klatten says “Since regulations do not yet provide for bunker procedures for hydrogen, we have opted to replace the hydrogen containers with full ones as soon as they are empty.”
The 300-bar containers will be filled at the hydrogen production site and brought to the vessel to replace the empty containers on board.
Mr Klatten adds “We are currently assessing a couple of suitable bunkering locations on our Rotterdam to Antwerp route and will choose an appropriate site once our operational and safety assessments are complete.”
Asked about partners, Mr Klatten explains that the company has operational partners and funding partners for each project the company takes on.
He says “We continue to build a strong network and maintain open communication with the port authorities, technology firms, shipyards, investors and banks, manufacturers, shipping and logistics companies and cargo owners. We are a member of ZESTAs and NSHyMap and we are in discussions with parties across the market chain.
“For the retrofit of Maas, we are working with BCTN and Holland Shipyards Group (HSG).”
Roadmap for zero emissions
Maas is an important step in FPS’ plans to build a zero-emissions fleet. Mr Klatten says “Retrofitting existing vessels is crucial in fast forwarding the transition to a zero-emissions shipping future. Maas is our current project where an inland vessel will be retrofitted to run fully on hydrogen. The vessel will have an electric drive train, and the propulsion power will be provided by fuel cells and batteries.
“Electrification of the drive train can allow for flexibility by enabling the use of different energy providers (batteries, fuel cells in combination with hydrogen, etc) and can be the first step towards zero emissions for the harder-to-decarbonise subsectors and vessel types. If there is a new fuel cell or battery technology available in the next decade, the propulsion system could be easily upgraded.”
Maas marks the start of plans by FPS to create a zero-emissions fleet. Mr Klatten says “Over the next five years, we aim to build and operate a fleet of 10 zero-emissions inland and short-sea vessels based on long-term time charter contracts to operators, logistics service providers, cargo owners and shippers. We do this by retrofitting existing diesel-propelled ships in partnership with other investors or their current owners who are looking to adopt a zero-emissions business model. The vessels could also be newbuilds and will be owned by FPS, or in partnership with other investors or vessel owners. We like to involve the entire value chain, right from suppliers of green fuel to cargo owners and charterers, as well as crews.”
Unveiling FPS’ roadmap for development, he says “We are working towards developing a fleet of zero-emissions vessels, starting with inland vessels and then venturing into short-sea. Our plans for the first short-sea vessel are also becoming concrete. This vessel will carry bulk cargo between northern Europe and the Mediterranean. We are looking at the possibility of it being hydrogen fuelled. In general, for the short sea market we are working towards a zero-emissions roadmap, step by step.”
FPS expect the next few vessels to be container or bulk vessels; a combination of inland vessels sailing in northwest Europe and short-sea vessels sailing in western Europe and Scandinavian waters.
Mr Klatten expands “We are focused on a complete zero-GHG emissions pathways – for now electric drivetrains powered by fuel cells and 100% green hydrogen and/or batteries. We constantly follow research and developments in other fuels and technologies to see if further fully zero-emissions prospects emerge.
“Our aim is to first prove to shipowners that zero-emissions shipping is possible. To start, we are going to retrofit inland ships currently powered by diesel engines into ships powered by hydrogen and batteries. Then, we are going to enable owners to do the same.”
When it comes to fuel choices, FPS’ view is that hydrogen, if generated with green energy, can play an important role in making the maritime sector emissions-free and sustainable. Mr Klatten says “We believe in eliminating NOx emissions; hence we are not exploring hydrogen combustion (which produces NOx emissions due to the temperature of combustion) or the use of (green) ammonia in combustion engines. We are always interested in hydrogen ‘carriers’ like LOHCs, developments in battery technology and any other potential new solutions that can enable sailing without emissions.
“At FPS, we evaluate or look at zero emissions through an operational and practical lens, and not from a theoretical viewpoint, because ultimately, we are in the process of building a zero-emissions fleet. It’s a very practical affair for us.”
To set its sustainable boundaries, FPS has subscribed to the Global Maritime Forum list of zero-carbon energy sources and aligns its energy sourcing with the Hydrogen and synthetic non-carbon fuels category, which means zero GHG emissions.
Mr Klatten comments “To enable the transition to a decarbonised shipping sector, the phrase “zero-carbon energy sources” should be understood to cover energy sources and fuels that collectively have the potential to be scalable for the supply of all of shipping’s energy demand in 2050.”
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent need for owners to balance the environment requirement and the need to preserve capital, Mr Klatten says “We are encouraged with how much the industry has opened up to the concept of zero-emissions shipping in the last year. This is a positive indication for us all, but we also see the challenges companies face brought about by Covid-19.
“We accept that some companies see decarbonisation as a high-price investment. We see it as a smart, calculated investment to build a long-lasting future and regulation-proof vessels as well as contributing to the environment.”
He sums up “We believe zero-emissions is the way forward and we are here to convince the first movers and early adopters of that. We interact with all parties in the entire maritime value chain from shippers to shipowners, operators and terminals, because we consider tackling only one part of the chain not to be enough. We want to support our customers and enable them to make conscious energy-transition choices.”
He asks “Owners need to ask themselves if they want to be part of shipping’s future or risk being left behind. Now is the time to fast forward the transition to zero emissions.”
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