Key hydrogen movers including Norled and the Hyseas III project will boost the bunkering infrastructure needed for hydrogen propulsion
The moves to introduce hydrogen propulsion to the passenger ship market are growing – and crucial to this is establishing a hydrogen bunkering infrastructure.
Several ferry projects will help to establish such infrastructure. A lack of hydrogen bunkering infrastructure has not stopped Norled in its ambitious plans to add a hydrogen-fuelled ferry to its fleet.
Norled project manager for international transport Kjell Ove Hatlem, addressing Interferry’s annual conference in London, told delegates about the challenges of building a liquid hydrogen ferry in a presentation titled ’The next industry game-changers – hydrogen-fuelled ferries’.
He said “We are working to get liquid hydrogen and I think that will change the business the same way Ampere [Norled’s first all-electric ferry] did at the time. There is no production or bunker station in Norway, there is no way to get hydrogen.”
Nevertheless, the company has a project to build two zero-emissions ferries, to be delivered in 2021. “They will look the same” but one will be fully electric, and one will be fuelled by liquid hydrogen. They will cross close to Stavanger in Norway.
Norled: transporting liquid hydrogen
Mr Ove Hatlem says, “We will initially transport liquid hydrogen from France or Germany by truck or boat, trying to have as small an environmental impact as possible. It will take another three or four years before we have the infrastructure in Norway to produce liquid hydrogen and have the bunker stations where we want them.” He highlights that the hydrogen will be made from clean power such as wind, water or solar power.
“This is a business opportunity for hydrogen production, transport and bunkering,” he says, adding that while it will start in the ferry sector, hydrogen power will be used in other transport sectors including cruise ships, trucks and buses.
Highlighting the help ferry operators gain from the Norwegian Government to build a vessel powered by hydrogen, he says it gave support by funding and giving the operator new contracts. “You need zero-emissions vessels and they pay extra for that, giving us a huge advantage as an industry,” he says.
Revealing more technical details about the hydrogen-powered and electric-propelled zero-emissions fast ferries, he said the energy consumption would be based on foils that will lift up the vessel and use 45% less energy per passenger than traditional high-speed craft.
“We will introduce this new technology keeping the same speed we have today, the same comfort and timetables,” says Mr Ove Hatlem.
The electric version will go shorter distances and liquid hydrogen will be used for the ferry travelling longer distances. There will be no emission of NOx, Sox or CO2, they will be completely emissions-free with the hydrogen produced from clean sources.
The ferry operator works with partners on the ferries, including experts in design and propulsion.
HySeas III is a fuel-cell project with a difference – the hydrogen is produced using surplus renewable energy capacity.
The culmination of a three-part research programme that began in 2013, the project seeks to demonstrate successful integration of hydrogen fuel-cell technology into a proven marine hybrid-electric drive system, along with associated storage and bunkering arrangements.
A land-based full-size drive train will be built, following which a roro passenger ferry integrating the whole hydrogen-electric drive train will be constructed, to operate on a route between Kirkwall and Shapinsay in the Orkney Islands.
Project dissemination lead Edwin Pang spoke to Passenger Ship Technology about the project ahead of his presentation on the subject at the Maritime Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Conference in Bergen in September 2019.
While there are several hydrogen fuel cell ferry projects in the works, Mr Pang explains the ways in which HySeas III stands out. “It is unique in the sense that we are one of the first vessels to attempt to accommodate compressed hydrogen below deck.”
“Quite often you see designs where you have a tank on deck, which is a lot easier to vent,” he says, but notes this would not be a suitable solution for the HySeas III vessel as it would limit available deck space for passengers and cars. This would then require designing a larger, more expensive vessel to accommodate the same number of passengers and cars. On a conventional vessel, the fuel tanks would be stored in the below deck space, and HySeas III aims to follow suit.
The timescale of the project is for the land-based drivetrain to be assembled and ready for testing by the end of 2019, and if successful, for the vessel’s construction to commence in 2019 with a targeted completion date of mid-2021.
The long construction period is necessary because of the added complexity carrying hydrogen as a fuel source entails, Mr Pang explains, noting “It is a whole learning process – having to arrange all the safety systems and conduct risk-based design to ensure it is safe, and working with all the stakeholders and regulatory agencies on how to proceed.”
Scotland’s Ferguson Marine Engineering is to build the Hyseas III ferry – which it says is the world’s first seagoing car and passenger ferry fuelled by hydrogen.
Port Glasgow-based Ferguson Marine successfully led a European consortium in a bid for EU funding support to pave the way for building and launching the ferry. The supported development is expected to cost around €12.6M (US$14.6M) of which €9.3M (US$10.4M) has been awarded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation fund.
The consortium HySeas III also includes University of St Andrews, Orkney Islands Council, Kongsberg Maritime (Norway), Ballard Power Systems Europe (Denmark), McPhy (France) and DLR - German Aerospace Center.
“It is quite remarkable that we can do that sort of testing now and iron out a lot of issues at scale under a controlled environment,” he adds.
Mr Pang explains that Orkney benefits from a large number of renewable energy sources – wind turbines, tidal and wave-based projects from the European Marine Energy Centre’s test sites there – but a relatively small population, leading to energy supply exceeding demand. The limited connection to the UK’s national grid means this excess renewable energy goes to waste. One attempt to address this inefficiency has been to use it to produce hydrogen, by treating water with electrolysers powered by the excess renewable energy, which can then be stored until needed as fuel for cars and vans, heat and power, and, in the case of HySeas III, ferries.
“Orkney has lots of renewable energy capacity and has decided they are going to use hydrogen as an energy storage medium – the fuel cell is a device that turns hydrogen back into electricity,” he says, adding “HySeas is just one part of a much bigger story.”
While other projects tend to focus on the vessel itself, Mr Pang sees the whole chain of which HySeas III is the end point as another area that sets it apart. And a key part of this is that the hydrogen is generated from renewable energy. “That is green hydrogen – it is renewable, sustainable, zero-emissions hydrogen,” he adds.
“What we hope to get at the end of the HySeas III project is a model you can replicate from start to end – not just the ferry but everything else associated with it,” says Mr Pang.
Looking to the future, the HySeas III team will assess how sustainable and renewable fuel cells are compared to other options.
“The other aspect is looking at business models and how to drive adoption of fuel cell ferries going forward,” he adds.
“We have some understanding of what the market looks like, and we can then question how to further refine it, as [hydrogen fuel cells are currently] more expensive than a fossil fuel installation.
Argus: fuels markets already pricing in IMO 2020 but more movement to come
Analysis by Argus Consulting has forecast the price differential between low sulphur marine gas oil (MGO) and high sulphur fuel oil (HSFO) will surpass US$400 in Q1 2020
The price spread between low and high sulphur fuels has been tracking upward over the last quarter, according to Argus consulting figures, with an average spread of over US$250. But the forecast for Q1 2020, following the onset of IMO low sulphur rules, has been set at a spread of US$413-US$420, with 0.5% fuels slightly cheaper than 0.1%, and is predicted to hover just below US$400 through the end of 2021.
Argus consulting services manager Matt Wright acknowledges the uncertainties inherent to low-sulphur fuel oil forecasting in the run-up to 2020 before diving into a discussion about fuel market responses to the forthcoming sulphur cap.
Forecasting prices, he says, is “a little bit of a risk” during the leadup to the IMO mandate’s implementation, “and what I am saying could be wrong within a week”.
“We are starting to see that IMO is having an effect and the effect at the moment, to a certain degree, is Singapore strengthening the HSFO crack,” he says.
“There is significant reluctance to take a long position on HSFO, which is understandable. But on the other side, you have shipowners who could continue to want to bunker HSFO, but they are taking much smaller lots. So, supply is still tight.”
In northwest Europe, he said, more supply was in place.
With the mid-September forward spread curve between Brent crude prices and HSFO sitting at -US$24/bbl, Mr Wright says Argus was expecting -US$30/bbl in 2020 as a differential, a spread the group initially thought was too high but were rapidly gaining confidence in.
“How the market reacts to the crack will determine how low it goes for and how long it persists for,” Mr Wright says. “We think it could last for up to about five years, but I would say that is probably toward the longer end.”
For bunker fuel pricing, Mr Wright set out his forecast points as: a drastic decrease in HSFO demand from shipping, increasing use of MGO and its importance in market pricing, uncertainty around how the 0.5% sulphur marine fuels market would trade and a need for new pricing and risk management tools to set parameters for the emerging market.
A surplus in the HSFO marine fuel market would be offset partially by an increased uptake of scrubbers as well as added refinery investment, according to Mr Wright. If the crack remains weak, he says, refiners will be incentivised to “go lower”.
Mr Wright says market moves to produce very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) were having a knock-on effect on gasoline, tightening the supply, but that gasoline was “looking long” due to structural issues in the market and resultant over-production.
Crude has not faced significant impact from impending IMO rules, he says.
In terms of VLSFO supply, Mr Wright said there is so much flexibility in every supply scenario, that all modelled outcomes “could flip 180°”.
Forecasting blendstock supply globally, Argus foresees high production from China, Russia, Brazil and North America and significant variations between blends.
Looking beyond 2020, Mr Wright laid out a relatively rosy outlook for LNG, saying he was “becoming increasingly confident that LNG does have legs in the long term” despite lacking infrastructure. He says LNG tank capacity improvements pointed to the potential for growth in LNG bunkering for larger vessels and the emergence of large price spreads in the liquid fuels markets would encourage its uptake.