As the maritime industry races to find new technologies to reduce emissions, developers are testing for the first time the use of hydrogen to power ships, as confidence grows as the fuel becomes safe to use commercially.
Reuters reports that to meet the goals set by the United Nations for net-zero emissions, the shipping industry must launch the first net-zero ships into the global fleet by 2030, and ships powered by green hydrogen can help reach the target.
Green hydrogen is produced from electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity from renewable energy, meaning it is emissions-free.
Last month, Royal Dutch Shell repeated its commitment to hydrogen-powered vessels, saying it saw it as ‘advantaged over other potential zero-emissions fuels for shipping’.
The credentials of green hydrogen make it an attractive proposition to industrial users, which includes ship owners and oil companies. However, it is far less dense than traditional fuels, which means increased onboard fuel storage capacity is required.
For now, that makes green hydrogen more feasible for vessels on short voyages.
Swiss-based technology firm ABB is working on hydrogen fuel cells for passenger and cargo ships, and one such project involves developing a fuel cell-based power and propulsion system for a new-build river vessel along France’s Rhone river.
“ABB sees short-distance shipping as the first adopters of the fuel cell technology,” said Juha Koskela, division president, ABB Marine & Ports.
However, green hydrogen currently costs up to eight times the price of very low sulphur fuel oil, and while other sources of hydrogen are cheaper, they are produced using fossil fuel, meaning it is not emissions-free.
For companies to invest in green hydrogen, then the entire infrastructure for refuelling and transportation, including electrolysers, compressors, storage, tanks and pipelines, must also be in place.
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