Saturday 23 March 2019
 
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ANALYSIS

Asbjørn Halsebakke and Ville Parpala

Will hydrogen drive the shift away from fossil fuels?

OSLO, Norway, 16 days ago

The global maritime industry is now on the threshold of a move towards renewable energy, with hydrogen as the potential acid test in the shift away from fossil fuels, said Yaskawa Environmental Energy / The Switch, a global energy company.

“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.”

Ville Parpala, director, Product Marketing of Marine Solutions, said that hydrogen, in combination with battery and hybrid systems, will help shipping chart a route to a more environmentally sound and cost-efficient future.

“Hydrogen is a carbon-neutral fuel,” he stated. “When it is produced using electricity from renewable sources, such as solar or hydro power, it is effectively emissions-free. In its liquid form it can be used to charge batteries for electrical propulsion via fuel cells. 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.

“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.”

Tailoring solutions

Both executives are, however, quick to stress that any move towards hydrogen won’t be at the expense of battery and hybrid solution developments, but rather in tandem with them. Fossil fuels will remain part of the mix for the foreseeable future, they say, but their ‘slice of the pie’ will shrink over time. Batteries, on the other hand, will grab more.

“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.”

The need for flexibility

Despite both executives’ belief that hydrogen’s role in shipping will evolve, neither is prepared to view it as a ‘one size fits all’ solution.

“It’d be foolish to see it as the only way forward,” Parpala said. “The world is unpredictable, and shipping companies can’t afford to put all their eggs in one basket. Owners and operators need to be flexible to prosper, and that’s especially true when it comes to fuels.”

Thankfully there is a solution that makes life a little more predictable for shipowners, even if the fuel mix is not. The first delivery of the Yaskawa Environmental Energy / The Switch revolutionary DC-Hub was in 2008. This, Halsebakke states, is a key piece of the puzzle for shipowners looking to embrace a range of fuel sources, now and in the future.

Future-proof technology

“Vessels built today have to be viable for the next 25 to 30 years,” he 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.”

“Not only is it simple, eliminating the need for a main AC switchboard, and cost effective, enabling generators to run at optimal efficiency while batteries cater for load changes, it is also flexible. 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. In an uncertain world, the DC-Hub provides certainty, effectively future-proofing seagoing vessels,” he added.

Providing peace of mind

Parpala added that the Switch’s Electronic Bus Link (EBL) breaker provides further peace of mind, delivering unique 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.” – TradeArabia News Service




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