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Want to create a manual for those who want to drive on hydrogen

10 September 2021

Future hydrogen-powered ships must not only function from an environmental and climate perspective. Safety on board as well as financial sustainability must also be guaranteed. The researchers in the project Säker vätgasinstallation ombord are including all sustainability aspects when they examine the conditions for replacing conventional diesel operation with hydrogen on an existing ship.

There are many projects around the world that develop new hydrogen-powered vessels, but hardly any that are engaged in the retrofitting of new fuel cell-based powertrains on existing vessels.

“We use the passenger and car ferry Uraniborg, which operates the Landskrona-Ven route. Based on the ship's operating profile and physical conditions, we simulate the installation of a hydrogen-based drive line. The goal is to create a "manual" for those who are considering scrapping fossil alternatives and instead switch to hydrogen operation”, says Andreas Bach, who formally leads the project, which is run within the framework of the Swedish Transport Administration's industry program Sustainable Shipping.

Safety, both for crew and passengers, has a prominent role in the project and a comprehensive risk identification will be developed for the proposed concept.

“Today, there are no regulations for hydrogen as a ship's fuel. There are regulations on how it should be handled as cargo, but not on how it should be integrated into a drive line. Right now we are in a bit of a vacuum”, says Ellinor Forsström, project manager RISE.

The financial sustainability is also examined in the project, but does not with as much focus. A business model or cost for the concept would be more or less impossible to present.

“So much is happening right now that a business model would be outdated even before the project is finished. But even if the prices becomes lower through technological development, it is clear that it would be expensive to carry out a project like this in practice. The economy is a big challenge”, says Andreas Bach.

Another challenge is of course the technical one. How do you rebuild a ship that is adapted for a different drive line?

“Hydrogen requires completely different types of tanks, for example. The spaces on board must be rebuilt. But the technology itself for a hydrogen-powered engine is not really a problem. The components are available. The difficult thing is the design”, says Ellinor Forsström.

“Yes, an intervention like this affects a lot”, Andreas Bach adds and mentions the ship's stability as an example.

“You have old diesel bunker tanks that you no longer need. It is very interesting to study barriers and opportunities. Because if we are to achieve the goals set by the IMO, the EU and the Swedish state, many ships will need to be rebuilt because their lifespan is so long.”

The project, which is ongoing throughout 2020, has had a broad base in the industry and a generally large reference group.

“I have led and been a participant in many other projects around alternative fuels and have never experienced such great interest before. People are very active in workshops and meetings”, says Ellinor Forsström.

“I think many people feel that they lack a lot of knowledge. Many in the industry know their part, but need to come together with others to understand the whole of this. There are also many users who are curious and want to know more”, says Andreas Bach.

The project report on Säker vätgasinstallation ombord is ready by the turn of the year.

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