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Friday, October 23, 2020 

HySHIP, a ground-breaking maritime innovation project to be managed by Wilhelmsen, has been allocated 8m funding from the European Union, as the Norwegian government announces strengthened focus on development and commercialisation of hydrogen as a carbon-neutral fuel.

The HySHIP project embraces 14 European partners collaborating on the design and construction of a new ro-ro demonstration vessel running on liquid green hydrogen (LH2), as well as the establishment of a viable LH2 supply chain and bunkering platform. The ship, which will go under the concept name Topeka, will be operated by the Wilhelmsen group, and from the start of operations in 2024, it is scheduled to start distributing LH2 to hydrogen hubs along the Norwegian coast. The HySHIP consortium partners, alongside project leader Wilhelmsen and classification society DNV GL, include other Norwegian companies Kongsberg Maritime, LMG Marin, Equinor, Norled and NCE Maritime CleanTech, plus French companies PersEE and Air Liquide, Diana Shipping and Demokritos of Greece, Stolt-Nielsen Inland Tanker Service of the Netherlands, ETH Zürich and the UK's Strathclyde University.

Topeka will be built for zero emission through a combination of 1,000 kWh battery capacity and a 3MW PEM (proton exchange membrane) hydrogen fuel cell. Hydrogen will be sourced from the new LH2 production plant planned at Mongstad outside Bergen by BKK, Equinor and Air Liquide.

The project aims to lower the development and operational cost of a wider move to LH2 for ship propulsion throughout Europe. The €8m funding from the EU’s Research and Innovation programme Horizon 2020 under the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH2 JU) is subject to the signing of a grant agreement by the HySHIP partners by the end of 2020.

The Topeka vessel will be the first of its kind to enter commercial service. It will sail on a fixed schedule carrying both coastal customer cargo and containerised LH2 to the bunkering hubs. Norway’s west coast is dotted with bases serving the offshore industries, with base-to-base transport representing a heavy-duty transport route eminently suited to LH2. HySHIP will be a large-scale validation of the ship, its innovative power system, and the distribution network. The bunkering hubs will, in future, supply LH2-powered vessels including ferries and seagoing tonnage.

Wilhelmsen VP special projects Per Brinchmann said: “Hydrogen as a fuel enables opportunities for low, or zero-emission shipping. Topeka will be our first step towards scalable LH2 fuelled maritime operations. We shall create a full LH2 infrastructure and commercial ecosystem, while at the same time removing yearly some 25,000 trucks from the roads.”

Equinor VP Logistics and emergency response Frida Eklöf Monstad said: “A hydrogen driven coast-liner that has a regular frequency is very promising transportation alternative for Equinor’s bases on the west coast of Norway. This zero-emission vessel service will also be a valuable demonstrator of the technology development supporting Equinor’s ambitions to move cargo from road to sea and to halve emissions from our maritime activities in Norway by 2030.”

“Maritime is a large contributor of global GHG emissions and thus a priority sector to decarbonise. Hydrogen and fuel cells have the potential to propel vessels in a zero-emission fashion and various ship types are starting to integrate them. HySHIP will be a worldwide forerunner innovation project due to its use of liquid hydrogen, the size of the fuel cell and the concept for the LH2 distribution,” said Bart Biebuyck, Executive Director, FCH2 JU.

In addition, HySHIP will conduct three replicator studies: a smaller, 1MW tanker barge for use on inland waterways, a 3MW fast ferry, and a scaling-up study on a larger, 20MW energy system for deep-sea vessels using a capesize bulk carrier as the replicator.

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