Two small commercial vessels will serve as demonstrators for hydrogen fuel cell technology under the EU-sponsored Flagships research project. One of the recipients of the 1.2MW fuel cell plant nominated for both applications is an existing passenger/vehicle ferry operated by Norled in the Stavanger area of southwest Norway. The other is a newbuild pushboat deployed on the River Rhone in southern France by Compagnie Fluvial de Transport (CFT).
The two companies are among 10 members of the Flagships pan-industry research consortium, including fuel cell supplier Ballard Power Systems Europe, and with research institute VTT of Finland acting as project coordinator. Launched this year, the endeavour is due to run until the end of December 2022.
The rationale for the project is to raise the readiness of zero-emission waterborne transport to a new level; lower CO2 and pollutant emissions, plus reduced noise, are key drivers. It is anticipated that Flagships will reduce the capital costs of marine fuel cell power systems significantly by leveraging know-how from existing onshore and marine applications, and strengthen European supply chains for hydrogen fuel and fuel cell system technologies. The project will highlight the advantages of fuel cell-based propulsion as opposed to purely battery-powered installations.
Operational start for the demonstrators using hydrogen fuel is scheduled in 2021. It is understood that an average minimum of 50% renewable hydrogen is required during the demonstration period, although the project is looking towards vessels ultimately running wholly on hydrogen produced from renewable energy.
The project will also examine the possibility of replacing biodiesel with hydrogen on one of the ferries to be built for the Finnøy route, north east of Stavanger. The service itinerary involves short stops on several islands, which presents difficulties in realising effective shore-charging for battery-powered vessels. Norled also plans to utilise the hydrogen technology in other schemes, including the construction of the world’s first ship powered by liquid hydrogen (pictured, above), for the Hjelmeland connection in western Norway.