HySeas III is the final part of a three part research program that began in 2013 looking into the theory of hydrogen powered vessels (HySeas I), followed by a detailed technical and commercial study to design a hydrogen fuel cell powered vessel (Hyseas II 2014-2015).
HySeas III builds on the first two parts by aiming to demonstrate that fuel cells may be successfully integrated with a proven marine hybrid electric drive system (electric propulsion, control gear, batteries, etc), along with the associated hydrogen storage and bunkering arrangements. The project will do this by developing, constructing, testing and validating a full sized drive train on land. Should this test be successful, it is hoped to move on to build that knowledge and knowhow into a ferry.
The fuel cell units to be employed are currently in service, delivering proven and reliable zero-emissions road transport for over ten years - in an expanding fleet of over a hundred fuel cell buses in Europe and beyond. The PEM fuel cell modules to be employed in HySeas III have in some cases reached over 30,000 operating hours.
The expected route to be the recipient of this innovative vessel will be Kirkwall to Shapinsay, in the Orkney Islands, located to the north of Scotland.
Orkney benefits from significant renewable energy resources, in the form of wind which is exploited through wind turbines. Also through tides and waves which are exploited through the test sites of EMEC – the European Marine Energy Centre which is located in Orkney. As Orkney’s connection to the national power grid network on the mainland is limited, excess renewable energy cannot currently be exported and would otherwise be wasted.
The islands have been at the forefront of developing technology to use hydrogen as a storage medium; directing the excess renewable energy into electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen which is then stored under pressure, and used for power generation, heat and local transport. This means that both production of the fuel and use of the fuel has no harmful emissions – GHG, SOx, NOx, or particulate matter. Using the hydrogen as a fuel produces only water as a by-product.
The islands still produce more hydrogen than they can use, so the next logical step would be to use hydrogen in their ferry fleet. This potentially opens up a significant new market for fuel cells, in the first instance the small lifeline ferries that serve remote islands and coastal regions which may also have similar renewable energy resources.
Substantial up-front cost is often a major barrier to adoption, hence one of the key objectives of the project is to look at how the concept can be made commercially viable – ideally that work will derive a business model that can be successfully and affordably replicated elsewhere. This will investigate a range of financing and leasing models that could potentially include not just the vessel, but the local hydrogen production, storage and refuelling infrastructure.
The project will also explore how perceptions of ferry operators, passengers and other European vessel builders can be assessed and managed since this may also be a significant barrier to adoption. It will produce decision-support data on the technical, economic, environmental and social opportunities from hydrogen-powered vessels. This will include an assessment of future skills requirements and value chains. The project will have 7 work packages in total, as shown in the following diagram:
Communication and dissemination forms a significant part of the project, aiming to transfer knowledge and experience to stakeholders throughout the EU via newsletters, workshops and presentations at conferences. This project would not have been possible without the support of the EU via the Horizon 2020 research program, but has also benefitted significantly Hyseas I & II which were supported by Scottish Enterprise. Hyseas III will link up with the EU-supported Orcadian project Big Hit, EU-Intereg (North Sea) Dual Ports and Scottish Government supported Surf’n’Turf projects. It will also benefit from the UK-Innovate supported Hydime project.