Yaskawa sees hydrogen gaining traction

Asbjørn Halsebakke, Product Manager of Marine Drives Asbjørn Halsebakke, Product Manager of Marine Drives
Industry Database

Yaskawa Environmental Energy / The Switch believes the global maritime industry is now on the threshold of a committed move towards renewable energy.

Asbjørn Halsebakke, Product Manager of Marine Drives said: “We’re fielding more and more enquiries about how our innovative drive train and energy efficient technology can be utilized to embrace new fuels. And, in those conversations, hydrogen is a recurring theme.”

Halsebakke’s colleague Ville Parpala, Director, Product Marketing of Marine Solutions, agrees. He says that hydrogen, in combination with battery and hybrid systems, will help shipping chart a route to a more environmentally sound and cost-efficient future.

“Hydrogen is a carbon-neutral fuel,” he states. “When it is produced using electricity from renewable sources, such as solar or hydro power, it is effectively emissions-free. In its liquid form it can be used to charge batteries for electrical propulsion via fuel cells. I think its uptake in maritime will take a lot of people by surprise, with developments moving ahead quickly – in both Europe and Asia, particularly China.

“There are obvious challenges, in terms of production, bunkering and other infrastructure, but demand will work as a powerful driver to help industry overcome these issues.”

Both executives are, however, quick to stress that any move towards hydrogen won’t be at the expense of battery and hybrid solution developments, but rather in tandem with them. Fossil fuels will remain part of the mix for the foreseeable future, they say, but their ‘slice of the pie’ will shrink over time. Batteries, on the other hand, will grab more.

The first delivery of the Yaskawa Environmental Energy / The Switch revolutionary DC-Hub was in 2008. This, Halsebakke states, is a key piece of the puzzle for shipowners looking to embrace a range of fuel sources, now and in the future.

“Vessels built today have to be viable for the next 25 to 30 years,” he says. “However, nobody can say with any certainty what type of fuel we will utilize over that same time period. This is where the DC-Hub comes in.

“Not only is it simple, eliminating the need for a main AC switchboard, and cost effective, enabling generators to run at optimal efficiency while batteries cater for load changes, it is also flexible. It allows for any power source – be that hydrogen fuel cells, wind generators, or solar panels – to be easily connected to a vessel’s DC grid. In that way, owners can create the best fuel mix to satisfy their operational, economic and environmental needs, adding new sources as they become viable to ensure optimal performance and efficiency.”

Yaskawa has delivered more than 1,000 marine power drives to the industry over the past decade and is currently expanding its in-house R&D capabilities to allow for drive train testing of up to 15 MW.

By Jake Frith

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