The Marine Industry: Slowly Sailing Towards Hydrogen Techology

In comparison to road transportation, the use of hydrogen in the marine industry is still in its infancy. Although there are numerous research studies and pilot projects ongoing, there are currently very few hydrogen-powered vessels in use. As of 2020, Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) reported that there were three operational hydrogen vessels worldwide. By comparison, for road transportation, there were around 10,000 operational hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) worldwide in the same year.

The marine industry has a significant role to play in reaching our net-zero targets. According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the shipping industry produces about 2.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and if nothing is done differently, emissions might rise by up to 250% by 2050. Although the marine industry is just beginning to implement hydrogen technology, there is considerable interest and investment in this field. In 2022, there were three hydrogen-ready new-build vessels ordered. The future economic case for hydrogen in shipping also looks bright. According to a report by the International Energy Agency, 20% of hydrogen demand will come from shipping by 2050.

So has the shipping industry set sail on hydrogen technology adoption?

Just last week, the Hydrogen Innovation – Future Infrastructure & Vessel Evaluation and Demonstration (HI-FIVED) consortium announced that the UK government has granted £3.8 million in funding to build a one-of-a-kind hydrogen-powered autonomous shipping vessel with bunkering technologies for liquid hydrogen. The vessel will begin to sail between Aberdeen, the Orkneys and the Shetland Islands by 2024, to facilitate future transportation of cargo in a more sustainable and efficient manner. The project will contribute to a greater uptake of these technologies in the marine industry by demonstrating their viability and possible benefits.

In February 2023, a partnership between Carnot Ltd. and Carisbrooke Shipping was announced to create an emission-free 50kW hydrogen auxiliary engine. After thorough design and testing, the hydrogen engine will be incorporated into a containerized system and mounted aboard one of Carisbrooke Shipping’s cargo ships for a 40-day sea trial in early 2025. The collaboration has been awarded a £2.3 million grant to bring the idea to life. The project’s goal is to demonstrate how high-efficiency, zero-emission engines may help the marine sector reduce its carbon footprint. If successful, this could mark the beginning of a new era of environmentally friendly shipping.

While the adoption of hydrogen technology has been quite slow compared to road transportation, the cases of HI-FIVED and Carnot-Carisbrooke partnership early this year are certainly cause for optimism. As the world moves towards more sustainable solutions to reach net zero targets, hydrogen might hold the key for the marine industry’s contribution to decarbonisation.

At NovAzure, we constantly look for new ways to promote decarbonisation practices and assist our clients through their journey towards net-zero. If you are looking to have a conversation or share your thoughts around how hydrogen can contribute to decarbonise your business, then please get in touch with Phil at p.cholerton@novazure.com.

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