Using alternative fuels in ferries

Declan MacDonald, technical superintendent

Alongside a consortium of partners, CMAL has been involved with the HySeas research project since its inception in 2013. HySeas III, the phase we are in now, is the final stage of the three-part research programme.

The first stage (HySeas I) investigated the theory of hydrogen powered vessels. This was followed by a detailed technical and commercial study to design a hydrogen fuel cell powered vessel (HySeas II 2014-2015).

HySeas III builds on the first two parts aiming to demonstrate that fuel cells, hydrogen storage, and bunkering arrangements may be successfully integrated into a proven vessel design.

Our role within the consortium is overseeing the vessel design and development, which is one of our specialist areas. Having led the design of the first ro-ro diesel-electric hybrid battery vessel, MV Hallaig in 2012, and in keeping with our commitment to reaching net zero targets, everyone at CMAL involved with HySeas III is committed to ensuring the success of the project.

With no one-size-fits-all approach to any aspect of designing a vessel, we have had to adapt and learn as we go on this project. Alongside vessel design and marine consultants ABL (Aqualis Braemar LOC group), we have been developing the concept design for the vessel over the last eight months, ensuring it passes the first round of safety requirements.  The design will be evaluated as part of the Approval in Principle process to ensure that the safety requirements of the design have been met.

Safety is our number one priority in every aspect of vessel design. Our vessels provide lifeline services, and we need to ensure they meet all applicable regulations. One of the major concerns we have faced on the HySeas project is the location of the hydrogen tanks. In a traditional vessel, fuel tanks are stored safely below the car deck, out of passenger view. However, it has emerged that this may not be the safest option for hydrogen tanks. After a number of consultations and a safety workshop it was apparent the safest option was to move the tanks to the open deck. This decision has had a knock-on effect and prompted us to rethink other aspects of the design, such as the location of passenger walkways and seating areas to ensure the safety of everyone on board.

Designing a vessel which runs on hydrogen rather than traditional fuel has its challenges but being part of this project means we have developed our knowledge in partnership with the consortium and a range of hydrogen experts. There are only a few hydrogen vessels in the world which have been approved and developed, so it’s a great honour to be involved designing the next generation of vessels.