Illustration; Source: Shell

Shell places multi-million wager on hydrogen’s ability to decarbonize drillship and tanker ops

Shell Brasil, a subsidiary of the UK-headquartered energy giant Shell, has made a multi-million bet on a project testing hydrogen in diesel engines on marine vessels, such as drilling rigs and tankers, to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This investment in a Brazilian technology research and development project enables the oil major to join forces with Ocyan and LZ Energia, the Protium Dynamics business unit, to decarbonize offshore operations.

Illustration; Source: Shell

In a bid to step up the journey towards decarbonization of the offshore industry, the three players’ initiative will explore the potential of hydrogen being added to internal combustion engines on marine vessels, as keeping an offshore vessel operating in dynamic positioning or sailing at sea requires high diesel consumption, which impacts the environment and increases costs in maritime operations.

Eli Gomes, Technology Project Manager at Shell, commented: “We are optimistic about the results of the H2R project (hydrogen to reduce emissions and consumption). The technology under development aims to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, in addition to contributing to the decarbonization of the offshore oil and gas industry.”

As a result of its belief in the benefits of this project, Shell Brasil, which invests about R$500 million (nearly $97.04 million) per year in research and innovation of new technologies, with an increasing focus on the decarbonization of its operations, is making the project viable by investing R$17.7 million (almost $3.46 million), through the research, development, and innovation (RD&I) clause of the National Petroleum Agency (ANP). After the hydrogen injection is calibrated, the energy heavyweight is anticipating the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by up to 10%, in addition to a drop in operating costs.

In addition, emissions are estimated to fall by 4.5 tons of carbon dioxide per year if the project evolves and the technology is applied to drill engines and tankers. The project proposes an on-demand hydrogen production system to face the challenge of storing and transporting hydrogen in offshore operations, capable of continuously collecting and interpreting engine data and calculating the amount of hydrogen to be produced and injected safely and efficiently. This method proposes the integration of hydrogen with existing diesel engines, eliminating the need for significant modifications to the vessel.

While explaining that hydrogen acts as if it were a catalyst enabling efficiency increases, and with it, the conversion of fuel into work, Igor Zornitta Zanella, Director of LZ Energia, elaborated: “The improvement is due to the optimization of fuel burning. By adding small doses of hydrogen, burning occurs with a shorter ignition delay and more homogeneously, resulting in a more complete and comprehensive burn. Those fractions, which used to escape during the process in the form of polluting emissions, are now used, meaning that less fuel is needed to carry out the same work.”

With LZ Energia carrying out studies of the technology applied to truck engines since 2015, various tests carried out in the field, on test tracks, and in laboratories with small engines found a reduction of up to 10% in diesel consumption and emissions. However, more laboratory tests will be done on a large engine to improve and mature the technology until evaluation in offshore operation. This technology, patented by LZ Energia, recently achieved international qualification from DNV, an independent risk management certifier.

Rodrigo Chamusca, Executive Manager of Digital Business and Technology, stated:  “We were able to demonstrate the effectiveness and reliability of the system, including from the point of view of operational risks with a focus on safety. We took the first step. This approval is very important for the development of the project, which is in line with Ocyan’s commitment to ensuring sustainability and neutralizing its carbon footprint by 2035.”

Shell is working on developing its portfolio in Brazilian waters. To this end, the firm recently selected Japan’s MODEC to deliver the front-end engineering and design (FEED) services for an FPSO destined to work on its oil and gas field development off the coast of Brazil.

Related Article

The UK oil major has not only set its cap on investing $10-15 billion between 2023 and the end of 2025 in low-carbon energy solutions but also earmarked about $13 billion a year during this decade on oil and gas with a focus on LNG, adding up to potentially over $100 billion in total by 2030.