Can Hydrogen be used as a Marine Fuel?
The key sources for this week's blog are two articles by 'Ship & Bunker', in which both the UK and Norwegian governments respectively are looking into investing more money in hydrogen as an alternative marine fuel.
I have considered this in more detail to check if it is possible, find out what the challenges are, and also look at what the current situation is.
So, can hydrogen be used as a Marine Fuel?
Yes, hydrogen is a potential zero-carbon fuel because it can be produced from different sources. Normally, it is extracted from fossil fuels or coal (which is called brown or grey hydrogen), but it can also be extracted from biomass or renewable energy (also called green hydrogen), which can be more environmentally friendly.
Some challenges and considerations...
A current challenge is that whilst most of the hydrogen is produced using fossil fuels or coal (which means the hydrogen itself is clean energy), the production process is carbon intensive.
Although it is possible to use renewable energy or biomass to produce hydrogen, the current price of brown and grey hydrogen is cheaper and this can pose a further challenge. The current price differential for brown and grey hydrogen ranges between $1-4/kg, whereas green hydrogen currently ranges between $6-8/kg.
Another challenge for hydrogen relates to its storage. The energy density of hydrogen, even when liquefied, is significantly lower than that of distillates (MGO). For the same amount of energy, the ship will have to be fitted with a tank 7 times larger than the existing one.
The cost of hydrogen bunkering facilities is also expected to be higher than LNG facilities. Hydrogen is stored as a compressed gas at 350-700 bar or as a cryogenic liquid at -253˚C. By comparison, LNG is stored at -160˚C. The main cost components are therefore storage and bunker vessels, which need to be scaled based on the number of ships serviced.
What is the current situation?
At the present time, there are many obstacles to using hydrogen as marine fuel. As we now know, hydrogen is zero-carbon fuel but only if it can be produced through a clean source, such as biomass or renewable energy. The receiving vessel will therefore have to be equipped with a bigger storage capacity. In addition, bunkering facilities will need to apply more sophisticated compression methods. Given the costs involved in recreating the infrastructure, many countries are currently engaging national and international government support.
We will keep you updated regarding future developments.
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