Swedish Technology on the Pioneer
Norwegian Hydra is the first ship to run on liquid hydrogen – the key is a Swedish hydrogen connection.
On March 31, 2023, a historic day occurred when the world’s first hydrogen-powered ship made its inaugural commercial journey powered by hydrogen. This is the ferry Hydra, which operates between Hjelmeland and Nesvik off the coast of Stavanger on the Norwegian west coast for Norled, one of Norway’s largest ferry and fast boat operators.
A Lengthy Project
Hydra was delivered from the Norwegian shipyard Westcon Yards in the summer of 2021 as “hydrogen-ready.” After delivery, work continued to install hydrogen technology, where German company Linde Engineering provided the ship’s hydrogen system, and Danish company Ballard Power Systems provided the two fuel cell modules, each with 200 kW, that power the ferry. These cells contain enough fuel for 12 days of operation at an average speed of nine knots, allowing the ship to cover nearly 1,000 nautical miles. In the spring of 2023, the technology was finally approved by the Sjøfartsdirektoratet (Norwegian Maritime Authority).
– There were a few things they wanted to change during the journey, including the cooling system and the handling of the water vapor produced by the fuel cells. Much more condensed water came out of the chimney than expected, which is something to consider for future projects, especially from a visual perspective. In winter, when it is cold, there is a lot of smoke from the chimney, which is just water, says Erlend Hovland, Chief Technical Officer at Norled.
Hydra was christened in July and, according to Erlend Hovland, has operated as planned since the start of operations. The ship can run on hydrogen, batteries, and diesel power.
– We have a requirement in our contract with Statens Vegvesen to run on hydrogen for an average of 50% of the journeys, and we have done so thus far. Due to the price of hydrogen, we prefer not to exceed that limit, says Erlend Hovland.
One of the challenges during the six months that the ship has been in operation with hydrogen has been refuelling.
– There are too few tank trucks designed to deliver hydrogen. We need to refuel every third week, but it doesn’t always happen. However, there is a good supply of hydrogen, says Erlend Hovland.
Quick Connectors from Manntek
Swedish technology from the Mariestad-based company Manntek is also on board Hydra. Their spill-free quick connectors for special hose allow the ship to refuel with liquid hydrogen, which requires a temperature of minus 253 degrees. This is a significant step from LNG, which requires minus 160 degrees.
Gerhard Kopplin is the Chief Technical Officer at Manntek.
– We received a request from Linde, which worked on the entire hydrogen system, to deliver the connector. We have worked on hydrogen connectors before and have been involved in a few different projects, and we had already built prototypes that they wanted us to test, said Gerhard.
Since hydrogen requires such a low temperature to be in liquid form, it imposes extreme requirements on the connector to prevent any leaks, which could pose a significant explosion risk.
– There are quite a few technical challenges. For example, all air must be able to vent out when connecting the Manntek couplings so it doesn’t get into the tank. In addition, there are material requirements; half of the battle was finding materials in the right dimensions and approved by DNV, said Markus Bäckström, Manntek’s CEO. The entire process of developing the connector took one and a half years.
– Of that time, the last year was just for the approval process itself, said Gerhard Kopplin.
TEXT: CHRISTOPHER KULLENBERG ROTHVALL, SJÖFARTSTIDNINGEN NR 09, 22 September 2023