Hydrogen ferry creates ripple effects

Hydrogen ferry creates ripple effects

“The government wants Norway to continue to be a pioneer in renewable energy and zero emissions in the transport sector”

Significant progress has been made in zero-emission battery-electric technology for both road- and maritime-transport. Between 2015 and 2022, there will be close to 80 electric ferries operating on various national and county roads along the Norwegian coast. This major shift owes much to the Norwegian Public Roads Administration. They have the responsibility for purchasing transport from ferry companies, and have in the tender processes demanded zero-emission solutions.

Not only do we get modern zero-emission ferries, but in addition new jobs are created connected to inter alia development and production of maritime electric batteries and battery charging.

However, electric-powered ferries have one fundamental limitation: the batteries’ ability to store energy relative to weight and volume makes it all but impossible to introduce battery-powered ferries for longer sailings. The solution for longer ferry routes is therefore green hydrogen and fuel cells.

Green hydrogen as an energy source produced from renewable electricity does not produce polluting nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons or particles, compared with liquefied natural gas or biodiesel. Also when we analyse carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the production processes and use of fuels, green hydrogen is by far the best. The first hydrogen-electric ferries will enter operations next year on the rv 13 Hjelmeland-Nesvik-Skipavik stretch. This will be an important milestone to gain practical experience with hydrogen technology in a maritime environment.

The Norwegian Public Roads Administration announced last autumn that the rv 80 Bodø-Røst-Værøy-Moskenes stretch is the next to be put out for tender, and that it should be based on hydrogen. The current contract for the ferries on the route runs out at the end of 2022. It is up to the parent ministry and the government on whether the recommendation from the Norwegian Public Roads Administration be used as the basis for the tender.

Hjelmeland-Nesvik-Skipavik is a stretch suited to demonstrate the technology, but with a consumption of about 150kg hydrogen per day the stretch does not satisfy the volume necessary to develop a profitable hydrogen value chain. A barrier for the roll-out and start of a national infrastructure is the high uncertainty around demand and small volumes.

The Vestfjord ferries have by contrast a consumption of up to seven tonnes of hydrogen per day. This route will therefore be important for being able to start building a national infrastructure for hydrogen in Norway. This can have ripple effects for other industries. I find it strange that it should take such a long time from recommendation to decision.

Hydrogen has been produced and used in process industries for many decades. Hydrogen from electrically-powered hydrogen generators is a known and mature technology. On the other hand, what is lacking and is little tested is the infrastructure for distribution and efficient bunkering solutions. Production plants and storage for hydrogen must be built near where it will be used, and not least hydrogen filling on the quayside must be tested and approved.

There are several actors, including us at GreenH, who are developing such solutions, but who need a demand to be able to realise the solutions. A Vestfjord ferries based on hydrogen would be the decisive factor.

This case is about far more than zero-emission operations of a ferry route. A positive decision on a hydrogen-based zero-emission solution across Vestfjord would make Norway a pioneer in renewable energy and the zero-emission transport sector.

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