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With an end goal of completely eradicating emissions in the Norwegian ferry fleet, which could potentially result in a yearly emissions reduction of 600.000 tons CO2, Statens Vegvesen (the Norwegian State Highways Authority) initiated a tender competition for the development, construction, and operations of a hydrogen-electric passenger ferry, with a demand of minimum 50% hydrogen energy.
The Hjelmeland connection in the south-west of Norway was chosen as a trial project for hydrogen technology, where the main intention was to verify new technology which could later be used for more exposed and challenging ferry connections.
In tough competition, Norled won the contract, and on the 8thof January 2019, Statens Vegvesen and Norled AS signed a contract for the development and operations of the world’s first hydrogen-electric passenger ferry for the Hjelmeland connection. They could now start their pioneering project, together with SEAM and ship designer LMG Marin.
Norled, which was the first shipping company to develop a zero-emission car ferry – MF“Ampere” – in 2015, as well as the first ferry with an autodocking feature and inductive charging, and the world’s first hybrid express boat, has contributed to the realization of many important milestones for Norwegian shipping over the years.
Knowing the importance of a successful hydrogen-ferry project for zero-emission shipping in Norway, Norled initiated the development of the ferry design, together with LMG Marine and SEAM, as early as one year before the contract with Statens Vegvesen was signed.
With this project, the shipping company placed their bets on being able to find a safe and reliable way to benefit from the many unique qualities of hydrogen fuel.
Manager for Research and Development at SEAM, Pål G. Eide, says this was a challenge the industry was more than ready to accept.
-This was a challenge from Statens Vegvesen to the Norwegian maritime industry, in developing the first scalable maritime hydrogen-operated ship. Hydrogen is pointed to by an entire industry as the best energy carrier for connections which require large amounts of energy, where batteries are not enough, he explains.
According to Eide, hydrogen will be an important factor in achieving both international and national zero-emission goals.
- The development of hydrogen technology is an important step in achieving the International Maritime Organization’s goal of reducing emissions with 50% by 2050, as well as achieving Norway’s goal of reducing emissions by 55% by 2030.
Hydrogen has a high energy density by mass, which makes it a highly efficient fuel. It can help reduce fuel consumption and, in turn, decrease the operating costs of ships. However, the cost of producing, storing, and transporting hydrogen is currently higher than that of traditional fuels. Therefore, a wider adoption of hydrogen as a fuel for ships will require significant investments in research and development, infrastructure, and technology.
From day one of the project, SEAM has been Norled’s partner in the development of the powertrain, automation solutions and safety systems; from the preliminary stages of risk assessment and evaluation of subcontractors, all the way to the construction, testing and, soon, completion.
- The development of ‘new to market’ solutions, which don’t have an existing regulatory framework to go on, requires close collaboration between multiple parties. MF Hydra is an excellent example of how we must play on each other’s expertise to achieve our common goal of zero emission in Norwegian shipping. This is the reason why SEAM has been a central part of the project group – consisting of the shipping company, the ship designer, The Norwegian Maritime Authority and DNV – from the very beginning, Eide explains.
The results of this collaborative project are just around the corner. The hydrogen tank and systems were installed on the ferry last summer, and the bunkering process is now completed. The sea trials will soon commence – after which the ferry will be fully operational as the world’s first hydrogen-operated passenger ferry.
In the next article, we will take a closer look at the research and development of the hydrogen solution. Stay tuned!