Reforming LNG provides clear path to H2 operations
The ability to transition from LNG to H2 onboard many different ship sizes and types could change the shipping industry’s expected multi-fuel future paradigm.
There’s a long-standing tradition to view shipowners as conservative, but Antonios Trakakis, Technical Director, Marine at RINA, doesn’t see them that way. In the current context, he sees any caution to adopt new fuels as a reflection of health and safety issues and the enormous financial risk and that it is. Many new fuel proponents describe a potential solution but don’t really offer a business plan, he says. “It’s not that shipowners are refusing to go green, it’s that they have sincere concerns.”
A joint patent held by RINA and Helbio is the answer, he says, and the multi-year development project which includes Helbio (subsidiary of Metacon AB), Wärtsilä and ABB is gaining momentum as a solution. Key is that the design that enables shipowners to work towards IMO 2050 with confidence, as it does not rely on the availability of new fuels or additional technological developments to maintain the ship’s A rating going forward.
The main quest to transfer cargo safely between two locations remains the same, says Trakakis, but now, rather than shipowners wanting specifically to minimise fuel consumption, the calculation is focused on meeting environmental regulations with the minimum cost. The new system is a reflection of that need.
The concept is based on combining the ship’s fuel (natural gas) with steam to produce hydrogen and CO2. Hydrogen will then be used directly in internal combustion engines or fuel cells, without the need to be supplied and stored on board. The CO2 will be liquefied by the cryogenic stream of LNG that would be used as fuel anyway and stored on board for later disposal ashore for carbon storage and use. In case of tankers, the stored CO2 can also be used as inert gas.