Norway was another first in the development of hydrogen-powered shipping. After years of development, the MF Hydra, the first commercial ferry to run on liquid hydrogen, began scheduled service. The ship is a pioneer in the technology and a demonstration of the potential of hydrogen, but it is also helping to define the rules for hydrogen-powered commercial shipping.
Although some examples of hydrogen-powered vessels are already in use, such as a workboat launched last year by Belgium-based CMB.TECH, there is still much to be developed and learned about the use of the fuel. The Norwegians point out that in addition to Norled, the shipping company that operates the ferry and the MF Hydrathe space industry with its rocket propulsion is one of the few big users of hydrogen.
The partners in this new project emphasize that when working on the MF Hydra At the beginning, both the technology and the regulations of the classification societies and the Norwegian Maritime Authority were insufficient. Among other things, their project helped advance these fronts with the first regulations governing the handling and use of hydrogen-powered ships.
“It was an incredibly exciting, educational and challenging project. On this way we have to praise our competent cooperation partners and last but not least the NPRA (Norwegian Public Roads Administration). They made liquid hydrogen a requirement in their tender specification and pushed the development of new technologies. Together we made history,” said Erlend Hovland, Norled’s Chief Technology Officer.
The new ferry builds on Norway’s tradition of innovation. You mark them MF Glutra launched in 2000, which was the first car ferry to run on liquefied natural gas. Eleven years ago, the NPRA issued a tender that resulted in the construction of MF amps, an electric propeller-driven ferry. They also called for the innovation of the hydrogen powered ferry, while Norled is also continuing with larger ferries powered by electric batteries.
The project worked closely with both Norwegian regulators and DNV to get them to the point where they could do this MF Hydra in service. In addition to the challenges related to hydrogen, the ferry has been adapted by a universal design with wide and threshold-free access roads without the use of an elevator. There are also large public areas for passengers with windows that bring plenty of natural light into the lounge and a viewing area for the hydrogen installation.
MF Hydra is 270 feet long with a 56 foot beam. The ferry connects the national road between Hjelmeland – Skipavik – Nesvik in Rogaland, Norway. It has a capacity of 299 passengers, as well as 80 cars and 10 cargo trailers. The ship was designed to consume three tons of liquid hydrogen every three weeks. The ferry has 80 cbm hydrogen storage tanks and is expected to reduce its annual CO2 emissions by up to 95 percent. It has a service speed of 9 knots.
The ship was built by Norway’s Westcon shipyard. Linde Engineering in Germany supplied the hydrogen systems while Danish Ballard developed the fuel cells that generate electricity from hydrogen. Westcon in Ølensvåg, together with the system integrator SEAM from Karmøy, was responsible for equipping and completing the ship. Seam also provided the automation scope for the hydrogen system. Corvus Energy supplied the batteries.
Since the beginning of 2023, MF Hydra and Norled carried out tests at the quay in Hjelmeland. In recent weeks they have been conducting sea trials and receiving final approvals from the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA).
“MF Hydra confirms Norway’s global leadership in the development of new environmentally friendly maritime solutions,” said Ada Jakobsen, CEO of Maritime CleanTech. “With the launch of the world’s first hydrogen ferry on a Norwegian ferry route, we are once again showing how purchasing power and good public-private partnerships can be used to develop new and disruptive technologies.”
The ship is now starting regular scheduled service. Not only do they expect an important demonstration for hydrogen-powered operations, but also a contribution to knowledge that will help drive future developments.
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