The idea is that the hydrogen ferry should run between Kirkwall (pictured above) and Shapinsay.
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Plans to build a hydrogen fuel cell-powered sea ferry moved ahead on Friday after it was announced that a commercial contract to develop a concept design had been awarded.
Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd, which is owned by the Scottish government, said in a statement that the contract was awarded to the London-based Aqualisbraemar LOC Group.
The two parties will work together on the concept, which CMAL said would be based on the needs of a “double-sided ocean passenger and car ferry with a capacity for 120 passengers and 16 cars or two trucks”.
The idea is that the ferry should run between Kirkwall and Shapinsay in Orkney, an archipelago north of mainland Scotland.
It represents the latest development for the HySeas III project, which is funded by the European Union.
The aim of Hyseas III is to show that fuel cells can be integrated into a “marine hybrid electric drive system” that consists of technologies such as batteries and electric drive.
To this end, the project aims to develop, build, test and validate “a full-size powertrain on land”. In addition to CMAL, other partners in the consortium are the University of St. Andrews, Orkney Island Council and Kongsberg Maritime.
John Salton, fleet manager and project leader at CMAL, said the award is “a significant step forward in establishing a new, innovative ship concept and marks an important shift towards completely zero-emission maritime transport”.
“If successful, the next step will be to bring the knowledge and expertise into building a ferry,” said Salton.
Other hydrogen ships have already been developed and put into service. In 2008, for example, a fuel cell ship that can carry passengers was put into service on a lake in Hamburg.
In March of this year, Linde, a company specializing in technical and industrial gases, announced that it had been selected by the Norwegian company Norled to provide liquid hydrogen and the associated infrastructure for a hydrogen-powered ferry. The MF Hydra, as it is known, will be able to carry both passengers and cars.
In a statement, Norled’s CEO Heidi Wolden said hydrogen “will play an important role in the future of zero-emission ships”.
Described by the International Energy Agency as a “versatile energy carrier”, hydrogen has a wide range of possible uses and can be used in sectors such as industry and transport.
Ferries aren’t the only mode of transport where hydrogen fuel cells could play a role.
Hydrogen buses are used in cities such as London and Aberdeen, for example, but aircraft with hydrogen fuel cells have also been in use in recent years.
Major automakers who have entered the hydrogen fuel cell market include Toyota and Honda, while smaller companies like Riversimple are also working on hydrogen-powered cars.