New study makes the case for hydrogen-powered boxships on the transpacific by 2030

Regular hydrogen-powered containership services on the transpacific could be a common sight by 2030, a new report from Washington-based non-profit, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) maintains.

The report, due to be published tomorrow, evaluated the fuelling needs of containerships operating between China and the United States by modelling their energy demand and fuel storage space requirements if powered by liquid hydrogen and fuel cells.

The results were described by the ICCT’s shipping specialist Dan Rutherford as “promising”.

“Despite its lower energy density compared to heavy fuel oil, we found no major bunkering barriers to powering containerships with hydrogen even on this very demanding route,” Rutherford told Splash.

The study shows that nearly 80% of 2015 transpacific container shipping legs, and 43% of voyages, could be completed by hydrogen-powered ships without changing their fuelling practices.

Nearly early all of the voyages can be powered by hydrogen with only minor changes to fuel capacity or operations, either by adding one additional port of call for refuelling, or replacing 5% of cargo space with extra tanks for hydrogen. For ships that would add an extra port of call, more than 60% had first or second-tier choices that would require little diversion from their historical traffic patterns. Ports in Japan and Dutch Harbor in Alaska were identified as most likely to receive additional traffic.

“This analysis, which evaluates a low density hydrogen carrier on a long and demanding route, implies that bunkering barriers to zero emission shipping will be manageable. That’s because other, shorter routes and zero emission fuels such as ammonia and methanol, which have higher volumetric energy densities than hydrogen, will be even easier to use,” the 13-page study states.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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