What is Ship-aH2oy?
Ship-aH2oy is a European research and innovation action backed by 17 forward-leaning partners from 7 countries. Its goal is to develop and demonstrate a novel solution for zero-emission shipping using green hydrogen from liquid organic hydrogen carrier (LOHC) and solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC). The solution will be demonstrated onboard an existing offshore wind service vessel, while a replication study will assess its potential for other vessel types.
The European Union has awarded Ship-aH2oy a grant of €15 million over five years as part of its drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the maritime sector and create a sustainable European economy.
What is the relevance of Ship-aH2oy?
The shipping sector faces increasing pressure to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, improve its energy efficiency, and comply with stricter environmental regulations. While hydrogen is widely seen as a promising alternative fuel for shipping, hydrogen storage and handling pose significant challenges, including safety, cost, and infrastructure requirements.
Ship-aH2oy aims to tackle these challenges head-on. The project will use LOHC (liquid organic hydrogen carrier) to store and transport green hydrogen safely and efficiently to the ship, and solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) to convert hydrogen into electricity and heat onboard the ship. This will result in zero-emission operations with high energy efficiency.
Hydrogen, the lightest and most abundant element in the universe, is a versatile and clean energy carrier that can play a pivotal role in decarbonising various sectors – including shipping. Because of its high energy density, hydrogen can be used as a clean energy carrier for ships when batteries alone do not provide sufficient power. While hydrogen can be produced in many ways, green hydrogen, produced from renewable energy via water electrolysis, promises a fossil-free value chain and the complete decarbonization of the maritime sector.
Promoting the use of renewable hydrogen is a pillar in the EU’s plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels. As the world transitions toward sustainable energy sources, the EU seeks to position itself as a global leader in hydrogen technology and infrastructure. This aligns with Ship-aH2oy’s aim of using green hydrogen from LOHC in combination with solid oxide fuel cells to generate zero-emission power and heat onboard ships.
Liquid organic hydrogen carrier or LOHC is a type of oil that can chemically bind and release hydrogen. LOHC can be used to store and transport large amounts of hydrogen at ambient conditions without the need for high pressure or low temperature, as in established methods (compressed or liquid hydrogen). LOHC can be handled like conventional fuels, using existing infrastructure and bunkering procedures.
LOHC is also hardly flammable, non-explosive, and low-cost, making it a safe and economical solution for handling hydrogen onboard ships. LOHC requires the addition of heat and a catalyst to release hydrogen, meaning that molecular hydrogen presence is kept to a minimum.
After dehydrogenation, the LOHC can be hydrogenated again and reused, potentially hundreds of times. The carrier oil used in Ship-aH2oy is Benzyltoluene (BT), a readily available industrial product ideal for large-scale application.
Why solid oxide fuel cells?
Fuel cells are electrochemical devices that convert oxygen and fuel into electricity and water. Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) are a type of fuel cells that operate at high temperatures and can use hydrogen as a single fuel. SOFCs have several advantages for marine applications, including high energy efficiency, durability, and low noise and vibration.
SOFCs also produce high-temperature exhaust, which can be used to supply heat to the LOHC release unit and other heat consumers on board, such as HVAC and sanitary systems. In Ship-aH2oy, the aim is to achieve total system efficiency of 85 %. This is vsignificantly higher than the efficiency of currently employed state-of-the-art internal combustion engines.
How will the proposed LOHC/SOFC solution work?
The proposed LOHC/SOFC solution will work as follows: First, green hydrogen is produced from renewable sources, such as wind or solar power, and stored in a liquid organic hydrogen carrier (LOHC) at a hydrogenation plant. Then, the LOHC will be transported to the port and loaded onto the ships. On board the ships, the LOHC will be heated and dehydrogenated, releasing the hydrogen gas.
The hydrogen will then be fed into the solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC), where it will react with oxygen from the air and generate electricity and heat. The electricity will be used to power the ship’s propulsion and auxiliary systems, while the heat will be used for the ship’s HVAC systems and as input to the dehydrogenation process.
The dehydrogenated LOHC will be stored in tanks and unloaded at the next port, where they will be recharged with hydrogen and reused.
How will the solution be demonstrated?
The project aims to develop and install a 1 MW SOFC system and LOHC release unit onboard an existing and available vessel, an offshore wind service vessel owned by Edda Wind. The vessel is already pre-prepared for the LOHC/SOFC integration, with dedicated space and structural preparations.
The demonstration period will last six months and include various operational scenarios, such as bunkering, cargo transfer, transit, waiting, and dynamic positioning. The demonstration will collect and analyze data on the performance, efficiency, emissions, safety, and reliability of the LOHC/SOFC system.
How will the solution be relevant for other vessel types?
The solution will be relevant for vessel types with high power demand and operating long distances, such as service vessels, cargo vessels, larger ferries, and offshore supply vessels. The project will also assess the replication potential and feasibility of the solution for a passenger ship (ROPAX) as a case study. The system architecture will be scalable and modular, allowing for the integration of several 1 MW LOHC/SOFC modules to meet the power requirements of larger ships.
The solution will offer a scalable, safe, and efficient way to store and use hydrogen as a fuel and achieve high overall efficiency and zero-emission propulsion.