Photo: Wilhelmsen Group

World’s first hydrogen-powered ships one step closer to reality

After receiving NOK 219 million ($24.18 million) of Norwegian state aid, Topeka’s hydrogen vessels are now one step closer to reality.

As informed, the grant was approved by the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) meaning all necessary approvals for funding have been cleared. What remains is for the production of hydrogen to begin, according to Topeka, which is a part of global maritime company Wilhelmsen Group.

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“With ESA’s approval, our hydrogen-powered zero-emission vessels are one step closer to reality. Now we are awaiting hydrogen to become available vessel fuel. We are excited for our Norwegian government and its ambition of investing in green infrastructure, focusing on hydrogen production, logistic hubs and supply chains to pave the way for commercial use of hydrogen,” said Topeka CEO Steinar Madsen.

Furthermore, Topeka’s CEO believes the newly announced national budget in Norway shows promising tendencies, especially considering the focus on Contracts for Difference to reduce risk in green projects with currently non-favorable return on investment.

Going under the concept name “Topeka: base to base”, the vessels will be the first of their kind to enter commercial service in 2024. The two vessels are identical and will be powered by liquid hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cells.

Photo by Wilhelmsen Group

 Providing a two-in-one solution, they will sail on a fixed schedule carrying both coastwise customer cargo and containerized liquid hydrogen (LH2) to the bunkering hubs.

“Hydrogen as a fuel enables opportunities for zero-emission shipping. The base-to-base project will secure seaborn and emission-free hydrogen distribution and is our first step towards scalable zero-emission maritime operations. Together with Aurora, the liquid hydrogen factory at Mongstad in Norway, we will create a full LH2 infrastructure and commercial ecosystem, while at the same time removing yearly some 25 000 trucks from the road,” added Madsen. 

Once the LH2 infrastructure is in place, hydrogen will become an available fuel for offshore and onshore purposes, and the Norwegian government foresees that making hydrogen a commercially available fuel, will pave the way for an emission-free maritime sector.