Hydrogen Fuel Appeal Growing, Drive Train Provider Says

As the maritime industry is looking at ways of abandoning fossil fuels in a bid to cut emissions, more and more players are eyeing hydrogen as an alternative, a Japan-based electrical drive provider Yaskawa Environmental Energy said.

Image Courtesy: Yaskawa Environmental Energy / The Switch

“Renewables and alternative fuels are attracting increasing interest, driven by greater environmental awareness within society, tighter regulations and an industry-wide need to optimize energy use and manage costs,” said Asbjørn Halsebakke, product manager of marine drives, Yaskawa Environmental Energy/The Switch Norway.

“We’re fielding more and more enquiries about how our innovative drive train and energy efficient technology can be utilized to embrace new fuels. And, in those conversations, hydrogen is a recurring theme.”

Hydrogen is a carbon-neutral fuel which, once produced using electricity from renewable sources, becomes effectively emissions-free.

“I think its uptake in maritime will take a lot of people by surprise, with developments moving ahead quickly – in both Europe and Asia, particularly China,” Ville Parpala, Director, Product Marketing of Marine Solutions, said.

“There are obvious challenges, in terms of production, bunkering and other infrastructure, but demand will work as a powerful driver to help industry overcome these issues.”

Fossil fuels will remain part of the mix for the foreseeable future, the two executives said, noting that their ‘slice of the pie’ would shrink over time.

“All electric solutions for short sea shipping and hybrid solutions for offshore and deep sea help owners and operators meet environmental and cost targets, and as such will become increasingly commonplace,” Halsebakke noted.

“There are barriers to hydrogen uptake that you don’t see with marine batteries, which have taken huge leaps forward in recent years, but hydrogen is a much more viable option for long-haul shipping. In that regard, it can be a key enabler in decarbonizing the industry – a stated IMO target by the year 2100.”

Where the company’s products come into play is the necessity to provide owners and operators with the flexibility of running on a range of fuel sources.

“Vessels built today have to be viable for the next 25 to 30 years,” Parpala said. “However, nobody can say with any certainty what type of fuel we will utilize over that same time period. This is where the DC-Hub comes in.”

“It allows for any power source – be that hydrogen fuel cells, wind generators, or solar panels – to be easily connected to a vessel’s DC grid. In that way, owners can create the best fuel mix to satisfy their operational, economic and environmental needs, adding new sources as they become viable to ensure optimal performance and efficiency.”

Parpala added that the Switch’s Electronic Bus Link (EBL) breaker provides further redundancy.

“The EBL is fitted between a vessel’s DC-Hubs and operates to isolate any faults in just microseconds,” he explained. “It effectively splits the grids, regardless of the size and nature of the fault, ensuring ultimate availability of power – and safe, efficient ongoing operations.

“What’s more, if additional grids are required for future operations, they can be integrated simply with the addition of a new EBL. This gives owners the flexibility and reliability to cope with the changing demands of this dynamic industry.”