According to Unitrove Innovation CEO Steven Lua, shipping is one of the most polluting forms of transport, with its global industry accounting for
According to Unitrove Innovation CEO Steven Lua, shipping is one of the most polluting forms of transport, with its global industry accounting for a whopping one billion tonnes of global carbon dioxide emissions annually. Alongside this, he added, the fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides released from ship smokestacks account for some 400,000 premature deaths and 14 million cases of childhood asthma each year. Switching to fuelling vessels with liquid hydrogen, however, could help clean up the shipping industry while also reducing dependence on fossil fuels.
Unitrove will be building its first-full scale portable refuelling station off of the smaller prototype design they unveiled last November at the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow.
When complete, the commercial bunkering facility will be able to be deployed to ports around the world.
Mr Lua said: “Liquid hydrogen has long been used to safely and successfully send rockets into space. The technology is mature, but the markets for its use are not.
“We already see very early signs of light-duty vessels being battery-driven or powered by compressed gaseous hydrogen, but liquid hydrogen will allow us to serve the heavier portion of the shipping fleet where we hope to have a much larger impact.”
Mr Lua said that Unitrove is also exploring other fuelling options, including ammonia, liquid organic hydrogen carriers, and solid hydrogen in the form of sodium borohydride.
However, he added, “we understand that priority is currently being given to the development of international standards and regulations for pure hydrogen, and this could play a significant factor in the long run.
“We believe that hydrogen will be recognised as a global commodity that will be traded in the same way that natural gas is today.
“The bunker fuel market is worth an estimated $120bn [£91.5bn], so there is a huge opportunity not only in environmental and social terms, but also financially.”
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Mr Lua said: “The award will help us to further develop our liquid hydrogen bunkering facility as we move towards commercialisation.”
“This is fantastic validation for our project and it also opens up opportunities for increased collaboration as we work towards reducing emissions, which are causing so much damage to our planet.
“We need collaboration across the entire energy industry as there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
“We need to embrace multiple renewable and clean energy solutions to achieve our net-zero ambitions and we need real investment in infrastructure to develop affordable, reliable, sustainable energy in the future.”
A ship’s fuel is known as “bunker” in a nod to the days of steamships, when coal would be stored on vessels in bunkers.
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Funding for the project came from a Department of Transport’s Transport Research and Innovation Grant (TRIG), which was delivered in partnership with the Connected Places Catapult, the UK Government’s transport innovations agency.
This year’s TRIG programme is the largest since the award scheme was launched back in 2014 — with more than 50 awards covering areas as diverse as maritime decarbonisation and the future of freight.
Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said: “Innovation funded as part of TRIG could be the key to unlocking a more efficient and safer transport system for tomorrow.
“I support the ingenious ideas of this year’s cohort every step of the way and wish the successful applicants all the very best.
She concluded: “I look forward to seeing the ideas develop to boost our green agenda and create high-skilled jobs across the UK.”