UK government grants £3.8m for world’s first liquid hydrogen autonomous vessel and infrastructure project

The Hydrogen Innovation – Future Infrastructure & Vessel Evaluation and Demonstration (HI-FIVED) consortium led by vessel provider ACUA Ocean in partnership with infrastructure provider Unitrove has won a £3.8 million UK government grant to build and showcase its innovative autonomous vessel and bunkering infrastructure technologies for liquid hydrogen.

Courtesy of Unitrove

The HI-FIVED consortium involves the Port of Aberdeen, the University of Southampton, Zero Emissions Maritime Technology, Composite Manufacturing and Design, Trident Marine Electrical and NASH Maritime.

The £5.4 million project, expected to be delivered in the autumn of 2024, aims to establish a domestic green shipping corridor between Aberdeen and the Orkney and Shetland Islands, with hydrogen-powered autonomous ships being used to transport cargo.

Unitrove said it will look to deploy its mobile fuelling technology at the Port of Aberdeen in its support.

The project is part of the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition Round 3 (CMDC3), which was announced in September 2022, funded by the Department for Transport and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK.

As part of the CMDC3, the Department allocated £60 million to 19 flagship projects supported by 92 UK organisations to deliver real-world demonstration R&D projects in clean maritime solutions.

To note, the CMDC3 is part of the UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions’ (UK SHORE) flagship multi-year CMDC programme.

UK SHORE is focused on decarbonising the maritime sector and is expected to deliver a suite of interventions throughout 2022–2025 aimed at accelerating the design, manufacture and operation of UK-made clean maritime technologies and unlocking an industry-led transition to net zero.

Michael Tinmouth, COO of ACUA Ocean, said: “Delivering successful technology demonstrations is critical to de-risking future investment in maritime decarbonisation. This CMDC3 project brings together a consortium of innovative partners, subcontractors, and suppliers from across the maritime sector, who are all laser-focused on the need to reduce emissions and accelerate the adoption and commercialisation of new technologies.”

Steven Lua, CEO of Unitrove, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to receive UK government support to enable real-world demonstration of the world’s first liquid hydrogen autonomous vessel and infrastructure.”

Marlene Mitchell, Commercial Manager of Port of Aberdeen, stated: “We are delighted to be part of this transformational project… Zero-emission fuels and vessels are an essential element in achieving decarbonisation within the maritime sector and green shipping corridors will play a key element in meeting the sector’s goals.”

“This project offers a unique opportunity for our newly operational South Harbour to act as a practical and at-scale living lab for net zero in the port and maritime sector and will directly address the theme of zero-emission infrastructure and will also consider feasibility to develop shoreside renewable energy generation at our port to supply vessels in alignment with DfT’s 2019 Clean Maritime Plan.”

Mark Harper, Secretary of State for Transport of the UK, said: “Our maritime sector imports 95% of goods into the UK and contributes £116 billion to our economy, more than both aviation and rail combined… We must continue our efforts to ensure the UK remains a pioneer in cutting-edge clean maritime solutions. This funding will help to do just that, bringing emission-free concepts to life and fuelling innovation.”

Unitrove and ACUA Ocean have previously been successful in bidding for funds from CMDC2 to explore the development of an innovative Zero-Emission Multi-Fuel Station (ZEMFS) that would power hydrogen and electric ships.

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Recently, ACUA Ocean joined forces with maritime enterprises Krensen and Trident Marine Electrical to develop a zero-emission liquid hydrogen marine powertrain system. This partnership is also supported by funding from the UK CMDC2.

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As part of the CMDC2, the Department allocated over £14 million to 31 projects supported by 121 organisations from across the UK.