DFDS head of innovation and partnerships Jakob Steffensen explains the importance of acquiring knowledge and skills early to ensure a smooth migration towards future fuels
DFDS has been around for a long time; we have 150 years of experience and expertise in shipping, ferries and of trucking within Europe. But even with that track record we are now in a situation where we need to learn a lot, and we need to learn it fast.
There is no doubt the transition to renewable, clean fuels is coming and we are fortunate our company culture embraces innovation and co-creation. We have a culture that is very successful at learning from and bringing in new skillsets, and that is going to be critical as we transition towards a cleaner future.
As part of this learning, we are involved with a major Norwegian project called Zeeds, where some very significant players have come together to find ways of accelerating the progress towards a zero-emissions shipping future.
We are also part of an important Danish project that takes offshore wind, and via a huge electrolysis plant, turns it into green hydrogen and methanol, which is ultimately used as jet fuel.
From projects like these we also get access to a lot of knowledge, not to mention hydrogen and methanol.
This experience can help us answer some key questions to enable us to make the right strategic decisions going forward, such as: When will fuel cells be available at an attractive cost? How scalable will these solutions be? How expensive will hydrogen be over different time horizons? Because our ships have a working life of around 25 years, we do not want to get this wrong.
And we also need to ask, can we retrofit existing vessels to become zero-emissions ships, or is that approach better suited to when we are designing newbuilds?
These questions require knowledge and experience to answer, which is why we are turning one of our existing vessels into a ‘fuel cell test vessel’.
We would like to make it very simple for fuel cell manufacturers to test their equipment in a maritime context and in doing so, ensure they keep maritime front of mind as they develop these solutions. We want fuel cell manufacturers to be motivated to put the equipment in a container and we will put that container on our deck. If the fuel-cell technology requires hydrogen, then we want to put a hydrogen container next to it; if it requires ammonia, we need to be able to put an ammonia container in place.
But crucially, we want the tests to take place in the vicinity of DFDS and the other Danish shipping companies. That way, we can bring the skills and knowledge into our organisation and disseminate it across other Danish shipping companies.
Ultimately, we see the biggest issue being the price gap between green and black fuels. We need to do whatever we can to close this gap and make the green option preferable and financially attractive.
No matter which path we take or which of the zero-emissions fuels wins, we are going to need a lot of renewable hydrogen. Producing that in a clean way and at a competitive cost is the critical factor.
Watch Riviera’s webinar on hydrogen’s development as a marine fuel: Marine Fuels: Hydrogen