HYDROGEN - POWERED ELECTRIC FERRIES
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PUBLISHED - Point and Sandwick Trust, in collaboration with a number of industry partners (Wood, Siemens-Gamesa, Engie, ITM, CMAL, Johnston Carmichael and Ferguson Marine), have published a feasibility study to assess the suitability of using hydrogen produced from local wind farms to power future ferry services operating in the Western Isles and West Coast of Scotland.
Hydrogen is recognised as a fuel with the potential to deliver 100% zero-carbon operation in marine transport. There are a number of initiatives around the world attempting to make operation ready, hydrogen for marine transport, including the HySeas project in Orkney which is supported by the Scottish Government and the European Commission.
ROSE COLOURED SPECTACLES
The allure of the hydrogen economy is plain, splitting ordinary water using electrolysis to obtain oxygen and hydrogen gas is like a dream come true, especially if we can generate what appears to be free electricity using solar cells and wind turbines to split the water. Then the hydrogen is free right?
No, not really.
There is a cost, including the cost of manufacturing the solar panels or wind turbines and the transmission line installation and maintenance. The inefficiencies in the conversion and handling chain make hydrogen expensive to produce and so potentially un-competitive - as compared to using the electricity needed to convert water, directly.
Utopians rarely see the wood for the trees. It's a bit like the VHS versus BetaMax video tape formats. BetaMax had all the theoretical quality advantages, but VHS won though on price and market saturation - then along came DVDs and BlueRay.
Where there is a cost, then we have to consider payback time and working life. If we can use most of the solar and wind energy directly to power vehicles (homes & factories), we make the best of the working life of our energy harvesting apparatus. And that means reduced greenhouse gases, so a reduced carbon footprint for the human race in an anthropogenic fight against climate change.
WEST COAST FERRY ROUTES HYDROGEN BUNKERING & COSTS
The project team assessed the most practical locations and likely output and cost of island wind farms; how to overcome challenges associated with handling, transporting and storing the hydrogen on local piers; and the bunkering requirements of nine West Coast ferry routes.
RECENT HYDROGEN FUEL CELL SHIP PROJECTS
• HySeas III project: A consortium to build the world’s first sea-going car and passenger ferry fuelled by hydrogen fuel cell propulsion secured EU funding in 2018. The vessel is planned to operate in and around Orkney by 2021, which is already producing hydrogen from constrained renewable energy. The project is being led by Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd (which is also involved in SWIFTH2) and St. Andrews University.
• FellowSHIP (Fuel Cells for Low Emissions Ships) project: FellowSHIP is a joint industry project managed by Det Norske Veritas (DNV). The project was among the first commercial fuel cell projects in the marine industry in 2009. The
• RCL cruise liner ‘hotel’ load: Royal Caribbean (RCL) is set to install hydrogen fuel cells in their new Icon class ships to take up the vessels’ hotel loads when docked at port, with a longer term goal of evaluating their suitability for main
• Liquid hydrogen cruise liner: Viking Cruises announced in 2017 their intention to build the world’s first liquid hydrogen cruise liner capable of powering both propulsion and electrical loads from a hydrogen supply. The ship will be
• Cheetah Marine hydrogen catamaran: In 2016, Cheetah Marine launched a 9.95 long metre
catamaran from the Isle of Wight, powered by a hydrogen internal combustion engine. The catamaran was developed as part of the Isle of Wight's
NORWAY & FRANCE - CAD impression of the proposed NORLED zero carbon hydrogen powered ferry.
SOLAR & WIND POWERED FERRY - The Cross Channel Challenger (CCC) is a project currently on the drawing board looking for backing to develop a coastal cruiser that is zero carbon just like the hydrogen projects, but where the vessel converts energy from nature onboard for propulsion, taking hydrogen leaks and inefficiencies out of the equation..
This is a toe-in-the-water project using budget off the shelf equipment to keep the costs down. Hence, the theoretical performance is lower than might be achieved but higher than the current benchmark. It is a useful stepping stone to medium range ferries and eventually bigger ships with longer ranges. Solar combined with wind power could be the winning combination. Comparing the two technologies will be interesting. For sure, the solar powered ferries will be safer and cheaper.
Solar and wind powered vessels do not need big hydrogen tanks next to docks for ships to fill up from. They do not need trucks to deliver the hydrogen from the conversion plants and last but not least, hydrogen is potentially dangerous, as the Zeppelin 'Hindenburg' demonstrated in 1937 when a spark ignited the fated airship, destroying it in minutes.
FERRY ROUTES - From Scotland to Ireland and to the Scottish Isles, there are a multitude of routes that can only survive with support, where profitability is in issue. Where sustainability and the elusive circular economy are major United Nations issues, could hydrogen compete with more efficient systems? Yes, it is clean, and yes it is wonderful chemistry, but will ferry services using hydrogen be able to compete with ferries that use cheaper renewable energy systems.
IN THE STUDY:
Wood’s clean energy team is responsible for coordinating the SWIFTH2 consortium, undertaking the feasibility assessments, and compiling the feasibility study report.
• ITM Power: ITM Power is a global leader in the design and manufacture of integrated hydrogen energy solutions that are rapid response, for grid balancing, energy storage and the production of green hydrogen for transport, renewable heat and chemicals. The Company has a forecourt siting agreement with Shell for hydrogen refueling stations and is deploying a 10MW electrolyser system at Shell’s Rhineland refinery, with offices in North America,
Australia. ITM Power have provided technical data and advice relating to the hydrogen production process and electrolyser units for SWIFTH2.
“This is an exciting first step towards a future where zero-emission ferries are serving the Western Isles using hydrogen sourced from local and renewable wind power,” said Calum MacDonald, project manager at Point and Sandwick Trust. “We need to make our ferries zero-carbon to protect the planet, but at the same time, we need to use our local, renewable resources to fuel those ferries to protect and strengthen our communities. When we have the best renewable resources in Europe on these islands, it would be crazy to replace the import of marine oil with the import of hydrogen. By sourcing the power locally, we can create a virtuous and sustainable cycle that benefits both the nation and local communities.”
CONVERSION, CONVERSION, CONVERSION - It is the number of additional stages of splitting water using electricity, storing as a gas and then recombining it to extract the electricity that was put in at the beginning at a huge net energy loss. Elon Musk has a point don't you think?
FERRY OPERATORS & ROUTE OPTIONS
Sometimes the shortest route isn’t the most convenient for accessing much of Scotland or France from England. What you save in cheaper ferry fares you might pay for in diesel and petrol fuels for conventional ICE cars, and tolls because of a longer land journey. The heralding in of electric vehicles with supporting infrastructure will change that, as will the 2030 targets set by the IMO for lower shipping emissions begin to take effect as they are gradually implemented.
Assuming that these targets are met, more local coastal tourism will be far more sustainable than global tourism reliant on flying to exotic destinations, no matter how alluring the thought of white sandy beaches and clear blue tropical seas.
Point and Sandwick Trust
Tel: 01851 871286
INDEX OF H2 POWERED FUEL CELL SHIPS
CROSS (ENGLISH) CHANNEL FERRY OPERATORS & ISLAND SERVICES
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