Norway’s first hydrogen ships are awaiting delivery of fuel for launch by 2024

Rendering of the Topeka design for a Ro-Ro for operation with hydrogen on the west coast of Norway (Wilhelmsen)

Published 12/9/2021 5:12 PM by

The maritime executive

The Norwegian government has allocated US $ 25 million for a project to build two zero-emission hydrogen-powered ships for operation in the offshore industry and along the Norwegian west coast. The Wilhelmsen Group-owned zero-emission shipping company Topeka said that all permits for the promotion have been received and that the project is ready to move forward as soon as the hydrogen infrastructure and supply for the maritime industry is ready. They expect their ships to enter service in 2024.

“With the approval of the ESA (EFTA Surveillance Authority), our hydrogen-powered zero-emission ships have come one step closer to reality,” says Topeka CEO Steinar Madsen. “Now we are waiting for hydrogen to become available as a marine fuel.”

Under the concept name “Topeka: base to base”, the ships will be the first of their kind to go into commercial service in 2024. The Topeka is powered by a combination of 1,000 kWh battery capacity and a three megawatt PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) hydrogen fuel cell. There are supply contracts for the liquid hydrogen and the company is only waiting for the supply to be available in sufficient quantities to support the operation,

It is planned that the two ships will sail along the Norwegian west coast according to a fixed timetable. They will provide transport services between offshore supply bases, transport customer cargo along the coast between Stavanger, Haugesund, Bergen and Kristiansund and transport liquid hydrogen in containers to bunker hubs along the same route. As such, they would be the first hydrogen ships in Norway to maintain regular service and they believed they would help build the hydrogen infrastructure.

Wilhelmsen explains that Norway’s west coast is littered with bases for the offshore industry, with base-to-base transport being a heavy-duty haulage route that he believes is ideally suited to run on liquid hydrogen. The bunker hubs created along the route will in future supply LH2-operated ships including ferries and sea tonnage.

“The base-to-base project will ensure the offshore and emission-free hydrogen distribution and is our first step towards a scalable, emission-free sea operation,” explains Madsen. “Together with Aurora, the liquid hydrogen factory in Mongstad, Norway, we will create a complete LH2 infrastructure and a commercial ecosystem while removing around 25,000 trucks from the roads every year. Once the LH2 infrastructure is in place, hydrogen will be an available fuel for both offshore and onshore use, and the Norwegian government envisions that making hydrogen a commercially available fuel will pave the way for an emission-free maritime sector. It’s just about starting hydrogen production. “

The award of the funding was announced for the first time almost a year ago. It will come from Enova SF, a special fund from the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment. Its purpose is to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the development of energy and climate technologies as well as increased security of supply. As the Topeka project exceeded the maximum aid allowed for a single project according to the parameters of the fund, it had to be reviewed and approved by the ESA.

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