Hydrogen Propulsion: UK Leads the Way

The largest project to retrofit an existing vessel with the technology for hydrogen propulsion will begin next month in the UK. In partnership with Innovate UK, the Department of Transport will spend around £5.6 million on the Transship II project, which is scheduled to last approximately two years.  

The vessel chosen for the proof-of-concept conversion project is the Prince Madog, which is the UK's only research vessel in the sector of higher education. Completed in 2001, the Prince Madog weighs in at 390 tonnes and measures over 114ft in length, making her one of Europe's biggest seagoing research vessels. Operated by German-based OS Energy, the ship is co-owned by Bangor University. 

Built by Dutch shipbuilding firm Scheswerf Visser BV, Prince Madog is primarily used for multi-purpose marine research in British and Irish waters. Operated by eight crew members, the vessel can accommodate up to ten research scientists working on various projects.

Prince Madog was originally built with a Wärtsilä motor which, powered by diesel, is capable of generating up to 1080 kW. Her four-blade propeller, which has controllable pitch, allows the vessel to reach speeds of around 10 knots. A single thruster with a power level of 150 kW helps with her mane­uve­rability.

If successful, the new system will exceed the goal set by the IMO for reducing emissions in the maritime industry by 40%. Once the system is installed, it will receive its hydrogen fuel from the Holyhead Hydrogen Hub, which is located on the island of Anglesey in the north of Wales.

In operation over short distances and/or at slow speeds, the new hydrogen-powered engine will enable the Prince Madog to achieve zero-emission status. When it comes to standard operation, the propulsion system will reduce harmful emissions by as much as 60%. 

Commenting on the new design, Professor John Turner (the Head of the School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor University, said: "With an ambition to be leaders in this field, it is only fitting that our vessel is moving over to cutting-edge technology which significantly reduces emissions. Reducing our carbon footprint by moving over to hydrogen power means Bangor University can continue to build upon our world-leading understanding of the environment and physical positioning of marine energy sites in a sustainable way."

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