Maritime transport is responsible for about 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, emitting around 940 million tons of CO2 annually. As the industry seeks to transition to zero-carbon fuels, hydrogen is emerging as a promising candidate.
One of the most interesting recent developments related to this green transition involves a ship called Europa Seaways — a hydrogen-powered ferry capable of transporting 1,800 passengers between the Scandinavian capitals of Copenhagen and Oslo.
Though it is only expected to start operating in 2027, plans to build it are already underway and they have applied for funding from the EU’s €10 billion Innovation Fund. Several shipping and energy firms have banded together to build the ferry, which is expected to be the world’s largest and most powerful hydrogen-fuelled ship.
According to the project’s initial calculations, the ship would prevent 64,000 tons of CO2 emissions from going into the atmosphere every year. That’s equivalent to taking 13,000 passenger cars off the road.
The zero-emission hydrogen fuel cells will be produced in Denmark by local wind farms, meaning it will be green hydrogen rather than grey or blue, which involves the use of fossil fuels in the production process.
On top of transporting passengers between the two cities, Europa Seaways will also carry 380 cars on the roughly 48 hour-long roundtrips. To achieve this feat, it will be powered by a 23-megawatt fuel cell, which will dwarf all existing propulsion systems.
“The largest fuel cell systems today produce only 1-5 MW, and the development of such large-scale fuel cell installations for an electric ferry is a monumental task,” said Torben Carlsen, CEO of DFDS, the ferry firm that will operate the vessel.
“We can only succeed in partnerships with companies that together can muster some of the globe’s finest expertise in design, approval, building, financing, and operation of innovative vessels,” he added.
In a similar manner to how buses have embraced battery and hydrogen power ahead of trucks, ferries are seen as a good entry point for zero-emission vessels before a full scale-up to massive container ships can happen. It’s no doubt the Europa Seaways will provide a model for the future of the shipping industry.