BunkeringEnvironmentMaritime CEO

Unitrove: Liquid hydrogen bunkering

UK-based clean energy solutions provider Unitrove has set out to deliver the world’s first liquid hydrogen bunkering facility for fuelling zero-emission ships. The company hopes to have the physical unit built in a little over a month and delivered to Glasgow, Scotland.

Liquid hydrogen has been used for decades as the propulsion fuel of choice for launching rockets and satellites into space and it is only now being seriously explored for commercial heavy-duty mobility applications.

Unitrove is looking to deploy the infrastructure on the ground, using maritime as a baseload for liquid hydrogen, but has yet to select its project whereabouts.

“We haven’t yet identified its final location, although we have had a number of enquiries to bring it to various ports,” Steven Lua, CEO of Unitrove tells Maritime CEO.

Having already delivered the UK’s first liquefied natural gas (LNG) bunkering facility at Teesport in May 2015, Unitrove’s campaign to “clean up the global maritime sector” is funded privately, despite the country being high up on the list of those aiming to put hydrogen at the core of its energy transition agenda.

“The UK government hasn’t funded any of this – it is all privately funded,” says Lua, a passionate clean-tech entrepreneur who graduated from Oxford University in 2008 with a Masters in Engineering, Economics and Management and shortly founded Unitrove following his work as an investment analyst in London.

He did, however, mention that that company had considered applying to the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition, “but it came too slow for us and felt we couldn’t wait.”

Unitrove will showcase what it claims to be a groundbreaking liquid hydrogen technology at the UN COP26 conference, which is currently scheduled to be held in Glasgow from the beginning of November 2021.

In terms of what else is next for the company and its liquid hydrogen bunkering plans, Lua is in contact with Singapore, where the company has done LNG bunkering projects in the past and also eyes other areas that are keen to explore fuels such as hydrogen.

He reckons Norway is leading the way for liquid hydrogen. Unitrove is a member of the Ocean Hyway Cluster, Norway’s network for hydrogen-based fuels in maritime applications supported by Norwegian Innovation Clusters.

“Also, California has a pilot project underway. We’ve good links to the Netherlands too, and obviously the UK,” Lua notes.

The company is looking at providing infrastructure-as-a-service and considering investing in mega-scale hydrogen liquefaction, “which is a story for another day,” Lua asserts.

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