A perfect blend of government support and industry cooperation makes Norway an ideal incubator for early zero-emissions vessels, says Hyon managing director Tomas Tronstad
In the past two years Norway has established itself as a leading driver in the use of hydrogen for shipping. According to hydrogen systems integrator Hyon, strong government support and a vibrant maritime cluster is making the country a force to be reckoned with in the development of this emerging technology.
Hyon is taking a highly visible role in several projects, despite being less than a year old. But with shipping veteran Tomas Tronstad as its managing director, direct from nearly two and a half decades with class society DNV GL, the company is positioned to take advantage of the opportunities emerging in this sector.
Mr Tronstad likens the country’s approach to hydrogen to the role it played in developing LNG and battery vessels. “If you look at Norwegian shipping, our advantage is not in making the same equipment more efficiently, it is in being pioneers, doing the engineering and having complete clusters so that we get the whole picture. That is what is happening this time around, pushed by government policies.”
"If you look at Norwegian shipping, our advantage is not in making the same equipment again and again more efficiently, it is in being pioneers"
Opportunities are emerging fast. The government has decreed that 50% of the energy used on one of its forthcoming electrically-powered routes – the triangular service between Hjelmeland, Skipavik and Nesvik in the county of Rogaland – must come from hydrogen. In December 2017, Trøndelag in central Norway decided to consider hydrogen-fuelled solutions as it sought emissions-cutting fast ferry concepts for short-, medium- and long-range routes in the county from 2021.
First and fast
Hyon is part of that competition through a consortium with ferry operator Norled, boatbuilder Selfa Arctic, naval architect LMG Marin, and propulsion company Servogear. The same group was one of four hydrogen projects to win funding under the 2018 round of Norway’s Pilot-E environmental funding programme. The zero-emissions fast ferry (ZEFF) group aims to develop Norway’s first hydrogen-fuelled ferry, with speeds of 25-45 knots, by next year.
Samskip's SeaShuttle project is one of several hydrogen-fuelled initiatives driving the technology's development
But Norway’s hydrogen ambitions are not confined to ferries. Multimodal operator Samskip’s Seashuttle project was another Pilot-E winner. Along with Hyon, technology supplier Kongsberg, and Massterly – the autonomous vessel solutions joint venture between Kongsberg Maritime and Wilhelmsen – the company aims to develop two containerships for short-sea routes. The ships will be entirely electric and powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
Arguably even more transformative is a project in which Hyon is not so far involved. Shipyard and marine technology group Havyard has been granted Nkr104.3M (US$12.0M) to develop a ‘high-capacity hydrogen energy system’ that will be installed on one of four cruise ferries being built for new Norwegian coastal operator Havila Kystruten. The system, combined with batteries, will enable the ship to sail without emissions for five times longer than other planned vessels. It will be installed and in operation by the end of 2022.
The projects all have one thing in common: the use of hydrogen-fuelled proton exchange membrane fuel cells that will rely on an abundance of hydrogen. Mr Tronstad believes that will not be an obstacle.
“Our thinking is that cheap hydrogen fuel will become a global commodity, based on production from abundant renewables,” he says. “Liquefied hydrogen storage onboard will not be a problem and for shorter routes, compressed hydrogen will offer cheaper, simpler and more flexible solutions.”
With an abundance of projects and expertise, and a successful track record in pioneering propulsion concepts, Norway and Norwegian companies like Hyon look set to play a defining role in bringing hydrogen to the maritime market.