Clean maritime: proving the benefits of battery-hydrogen propulsion

Ecomar's zero-emission battery-hydrogen propulsion system

Ecomar's zero-emission battery-hydrogen propulsion system. Credit: Ecomar Propulsion Limited

An innovative new hybrid propulsion system will offer a zero emission solution to decarbonise windfarm support vessels, thanks to funding award.

The UK has become a world leader in offshore wind.

In 2020, 2,200 wind turbines across 35 offshore windfarms contributed 13% of the UK’s electricity needs. By 2030, the government plans to triple the current output to 40 gigawatts.

Yet the boats which transport crews to service and maintain these wind turbines are predominantly still using fossil fuels such as diesel.

Now, a new project to provide these vessels with a safe, cost-effective, and zero-carbon alternative has begun, thanks to a grant of £1.8 million.

Battery-hydrogen hybrid systems

The aim of the project is to speed up the move towards clean marine shipping. Along with increasing industry confidence that battery-hydrogen hybrid propulsion systems are a viable alternative to traditional diesel engines.

The project is being led by Ecomar Propulsion, alongside partners OS Energy and the Centre for Future Clean Mobility at the University of Exeter.

Over the next eight months, the team will build a physical model of a scalable 1 megawatt (MW) zero-emission battery-hydrogen propulsion system.

The 46-metre windfarm support vessel engine room demonstrator will be built in Ecomar Propulsion’s Hampshire research facility.

Anthony Bennett, Ecomar Propulsion’s Chief Operating Officer, explained:

We’ve already proven the technology but building this demonstrator will help to build trust that clean propulsion is achievable.

Using an electric system instead of diesel means you’ll get a much smaller, cleaner and quieter space.

The system won’t need to be serviced as often as a diesel engine and will be cheaper to run too.

About the project

The Demonstrator for Scalable 1MW+ Zero Emission Battery-Hydrogen Hybrid Propulsion System project is part of the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition round two (CMDC2).

CMDC2 is part of the UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emission’s (UK SHORE), which was launched in May 2022.

CMDC is funded by the Department for Transport and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK.

As part of the CMDC2, over £14 million was allocated to 31 projects supported by 121 organisations from across the UK. The funding was allocated to deliver feasibility studies and collaborative research and development projects in clean maritime solutions.

Anthony added:

The grant has come at a perfect time for the company. It would probably take us another three years to get to this stage without the funding.

There’s already a big market in windfarm support vessels and it’s growing rapidly. It’s very exciting to be part of the UK’s drive to be a world leader in this kind of new technology.

Watch the video Ecomar Propulsion: clean maritime demonstrator round two competition winner.

The clean maritime video playlist is available on Innovate UK’s YouTube channel.

Last updated: 28 March 2023

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