A project to build a hydrogen-powered ferry will play a significant role in making the technology available to the passenger ship sector, says Rebecca Moore
The EU has awarded European innovation incubator FLAGSHIPS €5.0M (US$5.6M) to support construction of two commercially operated zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell vessels in Norway and France. While the French project is for a pushboat, the Norwegian project will directly impact the passenger ship sector.
On Norway's southwest coast, the city of Stavanger's local public transport network will see Norwegian coastal ferry operator Norled operate a passenger and car ferry operated on hydrogen power.
The Norled project will help open up hydrogen use within the ferry sector for several reasons. First, hydrogen fuel cells offer huge potential for meeting not only the 2020 low sulphur cap but also future stringent legislation that plans to decarbonise the shipping sector. The hydrogen fuel cell ferry ticks these boxes as it offers zero-emission transportation, as it will use hydrogen produced from renewable energy.
While the benefits of using hydrogen are not to be disputed, there are obstacles that have prevented wide-scale use so far. These involve bunkering infrastructure, the high cost of fuel cell power solutions and hydrogen technology availability.
The Norled project says it plans to fac these challenges squarely and offer systemic methods that could help the industry to overcome them. Norled aims to build European support networks covering hydrogen fuel supply chains, vessel design and manufacturing competence networks, as well as regulatory expertise.
FLAGSHIPS’ backing of the project will help Norled ensure its efforts materialise, not least because of the expertise of the partners involved in the FLAGSHIPS consortium which include ABB, LMG Marin, Ballard Europe, PersEE, VTT and industry cluster NCE Maritime CleanTech in addition to Norled.
The fact that this consortium includes shipowners, fuel cell technology suppliers, experience in electrical power system design, integration and manufacturing, and ship designers means all the expertise needed to plug the gaps found in the supply chain, manufacturing networks and regulatory concerns are present.
Norled's project will also apply knowledge from existing onshore and marine system integration activities, making hydrogen more accessible to other ferry operators by reducing the cost of marine fuel cell power technology.
The backing granted by EU’s Research and Innovation programme Horizon 2020 under the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking to the FLAGSHIPS project will also help the uptake of fuel cell hydrogen, as it hopes to provide transparency on costs and operational requirements as it did for the E-Ferry Ellen project.
In short, the FLAGSHIPS project's work will speed up hydrogen’s entry into the ferry sector. Having the full picture of what is required to build and operate a hydrogen ferry will make it easier for other operators to decide to use hydrogen.
With the combined force of this project and another significant project building a hydrogen-fuelled ropax, Hyseas III, we have what it takes to overcome the current challenges of deploying hydrogen fuel cells on ferries.