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Feasibility of green offshore hydrogen for use in maritime sector

Project Summary

ZEM Tech Limited has undertaken North Sea Hy-Ships Study Phase I on behalf of the Net Zero Technology Centre and Aberdeen Harbour Board. The project explored the potential for a maritime hydrogen economy in Aberdeen and the wider North Sea region.

The project scope was to address a potential demand area for hydrogen by assessing the feasibility of green offshore hydrogen production for use within the maritime sector and, specifically, marine vessels. It examined the opportunity for offshore fuelling/bunkering of hydrogen, identifying technology gaps and outlining an opportunity for a pilot project. It expanded this to Aberdeen Harbour to identify the potential and create a roadmap to deliver the first hydrogen-enabled port within Aberdeen.

Industry value:
The project concluded that green hydrogen has the potential to play a major part in the transition to a zero-carbon shipping industry.

Key results:
The study that consisted of six reports exploring the development of green hydrogen for maritime use in Aberdeen Harbour and the wider North Sea Region revealed the following:

  • Higher than anticipated TRLs for hydrogen in maritime propulsion and bunkering systems were demonstrated.
  • Both gaseous and liquified hydrogen bunkering are similar in safety to Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) and have clear potential for offloading offshore, but liquified hydrogen is more suited to the vessel types demanding bunkering at Aberdeen Harbour.
  • 6% of Aberdeen port calls are estimated to be by hydrogen-powered vessels by 2030, amounting to 6,557 tonnes of yearly hydrogen demand in 2030, the majority from short sea shipping and offshore service vessels.
  • The Aberdeen Harbour Case Study determined that the construction of a 90-turbine offshore wind farm would consume 2072.9 tonnes of hydrogen. Concepts for large-scale hydrogen-powered offshore construction vessels are in development by Heerema, Triumph Subsea and Ulstein, while hydrogen-powered crew transfer vessels are expected soon.
  • The Hydrogen Technology Review Marine Shipping identified 57 existing or planned hydrogen-powered vessel projects globally, about a third of which were announced in 2019 or later.
  • 28 green hydrogen bunkering projects and 24 green hydrogen electrolyser projects were mapped in North Sea ports.
  • Among UK ports, Aberdeen is well-placed to become a national leader in hydrogen supply, especially in the low-hanging-fruit offshore wind and ferry sector. Collaboration is possible with continental ports which share high vessel traffic with Aberdeen.
  • The high-volume potential off-taker market of maritime hydrogen demand has been overlooked by key stakeholders who have not included maritime demand in economic forecasts due to the lack of perceived readiness.

The project had limitations due to access restrictions on bunkering data meaningful scenario analysis and a more detailed consistent market assessment could not be performed.


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