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Dutch firm to launch hydrogen-powered barge

By swapping diesel for hydrogen power, Future Proof Shipping hopes its pilot scheme will show such retrofits are technically and financially viable

A Dutch shipping company is converting a 110m barge into a hydrogen-powered inland vessel that will enter service in mid-2021.

Rotterdam-based Future Proof Shipping will swap the ship’s diesel engine for a propulsion system that includes fuel cells, a battery, an electric motor and hydrogen storage.

The proton exchange membrane fuel cells and compressed hydrogen will be sited in the cargo space. The hydrogen will be stored in two swappable 40ft containers, which will contain around 900kg of the gas at a pressure of 300 bar, above the fuel cell system.

“After this inland vessel, we want to go to short sea vessels to demonstrate the same capabilities” Godjevac, Future Proof Shipping

“Based on the [power] measurements, technological readiness, [and] financial constraints, we concluded that compressed hydrogen offers the optimum solution at the moment,” Milinko Godjevac, senior integration adviser at Future Proof Shipping, told Norway’s fifth International Conference on Maritime Hydrogen and Marine Energy on Wednesday.

The ship, which operates on inland waterways between the Netherlands and Belgium, will rely on fuel cells with an installed capacity of 825kW, while a 504kWh lithium-ion battery will provide additional power if needed. A 750V DC electric motor provides propulsion.

“Retrofitting an inland vessel to zero-emission technology is both technically and financially feasible,” says Godjevac. “In technical terms, some compromises need to be made in terms of the design and the design space. Also, [there are] challenges regarding ventilation spaces, extra ducting [and] redundancy—all that needs to be accommodated but it is possible.”

Negligible costs

Godjevac acknowledges a hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system remains more expensive than diesel power but believes this additional transport expense would be inconsequential for shipping high-price goods when calculated as part of the total cost of such products.

His company is finalising the barge’s redesign, with retrofitting work likely to start in early 2021 before the ship enters service next July.

“After this inland vessel, we want to go to short sea vessels to demonstrate the same capabilities and also to support other inland vessels in their zero-emission transition,” adds Godjevac.

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