Finnish technology company Wärtsilä and partners including RINA, ABB, Helbio – a subsidiary of Metacon AB, the Liberian Registry, and an energy major, have embarked on a project to deliver a solution with hydrogen as fuel. The aim is to have a scalable and sustainable solution that will exceed IMO 2050 emissions targets for a 70% reduction in carbon intensity without the need for extensive infrastructure investment. This offers the shipping industry a pathway to low-carbon operations within a reasonable time frame.
Current difficulties and costs regarding the production, distribution and onboard storage of hydrogen have so far greatly hampered the use of hydrogen in maritime transport. However, if the hydrogen is produced directly on board, this energy alternative becomes much more attractive for investors and users.
The concept is based on combining liquefied natural gas (LNG) with steam to produce hydrogen and CO2. The hydrogen produced will be used directly in a mix with natural gas in internal combustion engines or in fuel cells, thus eliminating the need for hydrogen to be stored onboard. The CO2 will be liquefied thanks to the cryogenic stream of the LNG that would be used as fuel anyway and later disposed of ashore for carbon storage. Tankers can use the stored CO2 as inert gas during discharge.
The necessary equipment can easily be fitted on the deck of a commercial vessel. This innovative concept will support the marine sector’s gradual transition from LNG to hydrogen without any major adjustments to a vessel’s onboard technologies. By progressively increasing the production of hydrogen, the consumption of fossil methane and associated methane slip will be reduced at the same rate.
“Our gas engines are already able to use mixtures of hydrogen and LNG, and our future efforts will be to reach 100% hydrogen fuel,” says Lars Anderson, Director, Product Management & Sales Support, Wärtsilä Marine Power. “We are totally committed to supporting in every way possible the decarbonization of shipping operations. This project is one more example of this commitment, and we are very pleased to be partnering with other stakeholders to make the IMO 2050 target achievable. This project will give owners a real chance to stay ahead of the competition in terms of efficiency and sustainability.”
Wärtsilä and ABB will support the application of hydrogen in powering internal combination engines and fuel cells, respectively. Helbio will provide the technology and manufacturing of gas reformers, while RINA and the Liberian Registry will provide advice and guidance on the application of rules and regulations for novel concept alternative designs.