Danish project looking to harness wind power to produce hydrogen for ships

Denmark’s ShippingLab is supporting a project from Hvide Sande Shipyard, Ballard Power Systems and Odense Maritime Technology (OMT) which is looking to convert power from wind turbines at the Port of Hvide Sande into hydrogen as an energy source for ships.

In a statement issued this week, ShippingLab said that the initial plan is to study the feasibility of using the hydrogen for the fuel cells of a dredger operating at the port, but added that the long-term ‘ambitions of the new project are far greater’.

‘The goal,’ said ShippingLab, ‘is to make the use of hydrogen commercially viable within shipping in general.’

The project will look to overcome some of the practical challenges of using hydrogen and fuel cell technology on ships.

Kristina F. Juelsgaard, Business Development Director at Ballard Power Systems Europe, explained: ‘There is a huge difference between running a bus on hydrogen through town and bringing the same power system on board a vessel affected by waves and current. There is the weather and the effect of water and salt, and at the same time the system must be able to handle both the propulsion of the vessel and increased work load when the vessel is lying still dredging.

‘We have developed a good solution for this, and the cooperation in ShippingLab with the maritime experts is absolutely crucial to having the solutions tested in real life and finding out what actually works best at sea.

‘Not all types of green fuel will be suitable for all kinds of vessels, so we are looking forward to having a good, shared experience with hydrogen.’

Carl Erik Kristensen, the CEO of Hvide Sande Shipyard, added: ‘Hydrogen works very well in other connections, so if all goes well, it can also be used here. We are happy to be a part of this project because we as a shipyard want to be in the forefront of the development of new solutions which can make shipping far more sustainable in the future. It will also please us very much if locally produced power can provide both sufficient hydrogen to the project and also send extra heat to district heating customers – and no matter what, we will learn a lot from the project.’

ShippingLab said the new fuel cell-powered dredger will be ‘based on a well-known design for a tug and supply vessel’. However, added ShippingLab: ‘With hydrogen on board, it must also be considered how it can be stored and loaded safely as hydrogen is a flammable gas that must be handled safely. Solutions must be found to ensure ventilation, possible fire extinction, monitoring etc. Consequently, the approval process and risk assessment will be quite [comprehensive], and the project will – in cooperation with authorities – contribute to determining the requirements for use of hydrogen on board ships. But the parties involved in the project believe that all this can be solved.’

A key goal of the project is to demonstrate that the concept is commercially viable.

Thomas Eefsen, Chief Commercial Officer of Odense Maritime Technology, explained: ‘We see a large potential in the use of hydrogen in terms of reducing the climate impact, especially from operations close to shore.

‘Our interest in the project is to demonstrate and assess the potential of “green” hydrogen all the way from production, storage and bunkering and to application as fuel for propulsion. When we have, hopefully, succeeded in this, the use of hydrogen can be important in making the local shipping greener, and when shipping becomes more climate friendly, we hope to see a much larger amount of cargo transported on ships, thereby increasing the turnover in the shipping business. So there are many interesting aspects in this project.’

Kjeld Dittmann, Chairman of ShippingLab, concluded: ‘Shipping is facing large challenges in terms of converting operation from traditional fuels to more environmentally friendly solutions, and for short sea shipping, fuel cells seem to be a promising alternative. At the same time, this particular project is interesting to ShippingLab because it could be possible to create a local ecosystem around the hydrogen which will provide important knowledge about problems and solutions in relation to production, distribution and application of hydrogen as a means of propulsion for short sea shipping.’

The idea of using a hydrogen as an alternative, greener energy solution for shipping does appear to be gaining traction. Earlier this week, energy consultancy Ricardo announced it is teaming up with the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) to support a hydrogen production facility on the Isle of Wight that could be used to supply the maritime sector. On 10 June, the German government adopted a comprehensive national hydrogen strategy which recognised that that demand for climate neutral fuel will develop in aviation and shipping in particular.

Ian Taylor

Ian Taylor