The hydrogen fuel cell ferry being built in Scotland is a “game-changer” and is the “next logical piece in the jigsaw puzzle”, Ferguson Marine Engineering chief naval architect Chris Dunn told delegates at this year’s Interferry conference.

The shipyard is building the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell ferry, with hydrogen harvested entirely from renewable sources. It led a European consortium in a bid for EU funding support to pave the way for building and launching the ferry. Known as Hyseas III, it will operate around Scotland’s Orkney Islands, which are producing hydrogen in volume from renewable energy, which the ferry will electrolyse and thus use as fuel cells. Mr Dunn said the excess heat created would be used to power other parts of the vessel.

Hydrogen is already being used in the Orkney Islands at ports to cold iron, so “this is the next logical piece of the puzzle, moving from quayside to ship and completing the zero-emission cycle,” said Mr Dunn. He added “As far as disruptive technology goes, I believe this is a game-changer.”

The vessel will be delivered in 2020, with steel cut around October next year.

Speaking about the project risks, Mr Dunn highlighted a major one being that there are no prescriptive rules governing building a hydrogen powered ferry – currently the IGF code is being used which is not particularly appropriate because it is aimed at gas-powered vessels. Therefore, a risk-based alternative design process has to be used. While Mr Dunn said this was “good” it was also “entirely unpredictable”.

Another challenge is storing the hydrogen in the vessel. Mr Dunn said that while not heavy, even compressed hydrogen takes up a lot of volume at 350 bars. However, the company has overcome this to create a hull shape that can address fuel storage challenges.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges is passenger perception – they think it is dangerous and that hydrogen is expensive to create. But Dr Dunn said “These problems are not insurmountable”.

Summing up why he wanted to share the project at Interferry’s conference, he said “When facing regulators we need as much power and presence as we can. We believe this is a viable technology and we want to share it with as many people as we can.”

Bron: Marine Propulsion