ZESTA Unveils Groundbreaking Report on Zero Emissions Maritime Technologies

Commercially Operational Hydrogen Fuel Cell-Powered Ships Pave the Way for Green Maritime Transport

ZESTA Unveils Groundbreaking

Zero Emissions Ship Technology Association (ZESTA) has submitted document MEPC81/INF.5ª to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), providing a comprehensive overview of globally validated technologies featuring absolute zero greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in operational maritime environments. The document bases its assessment on Technological Readiness Levels (TRL) and Commercial Readiness Levels (CRL). Notably, the report focuses on hydrogen fuel cells, highlighting several commercially operational ships powered by this eco-friendly fuel. Predominantly, manufacturers of commercially available fuel cell systems in the maritime sector are concentrated in the United States and the European Union (EU).

Specifically, the report notes that commercially available LT-PEM fuel cell-powered vessels are already operational with various hydrogen storage options. Furthermore, a significant influx of such vessels is expected to commence operations shortly, with others having received preliminary approvals and currently under construction. ZESTA emphasizes that pioneers in this field faced challenging certification processes, which, with accumulated experience, are becoming more streamlined.

As of now, six different providers, including Ballard Power, Nedstack, Cummins, PowerCell, Yanmar PT, and Proton Motor, have installed fuel cell systems with capacities exceeding 0.1 MW on ships. Another provider, Teco 2030, is expected to enter the market by 2024.

According to the report, ships utilizing hydrogen fuel cells for primary propulsion are generally small to medium-sized, with a gross tonnage of around 5,000 or less. Auxiliary power systems employing fuel cells are installed across vessels of all sizes, ranging from port dredgers to 930-passenger cruises with a gross tonnage of 47,800. Various vessel types currently in service include Ro-Pax, passenger ships, cruise liners, cargo carriers, research vessels, and dredgers. Additionally, upcoming vessels are anticipated to include training fishing boats, containerships, yachts, bulk carriers, and tankers.

Regarding onboard fuel storage, conventional options involve either liquefied hydrogen in cryogenic tanks or compressed gaseous hydrogen in pressurized tanks. Additionally, metal hydride storage on a commercial ship has been demonstrated successfully.

Considering hydrogen’s unique properties compared to traditional maritime fuels like LNG, the report highlights the importance of adjusting safety and classification standards. The wider flammability range, increased reactivity, and lower ignition energy of hydrogen necessitate specialized safety considerations, requiring different design approaches than those applied to LNG vessels.

Hydrogen supply to ships from shore can be achieved through pipelines/hoses for liquid or compressed hydrogen. Liquid hydrogen offers significantly faster transfer rates (approximately 3,000 kg/hour) compared to compressed hydrogen (220 kg/hour). Presently, three locations – Kobe (Japan), Hastings (Australia), and Hjelmeland (Norway) – provide hydrogen transfer facilities, with Hjelmeland utilizing a mobile liquid hydrogen refueling system for the MF Hydra, demonstrating flexibility in usage at various docks. The HI-FIVED project plans to install another mobile liquid hydrogen refueling system in Aberdeen, further expanding accessibility to this sustainable refueling method.

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