Shipping company CMB goes for hydrogen

With Air Liquide we want to scale up to make wider use of hydrogen
Hydrogen Energy
14 February 2022

Belgian shipping company CMB – Compagnie Maritime Belge – has a rich history spanning over 125 years. In that time the company has built up an impressive fleet of more than 90 large cargo vessels and 50 workboats. The CMB.TECH division also focuses on business activities outside the shipping industry. This is all because of recent developments in hydrogen...

CMB builds and rents out ships, distinguishing itself from the competition by constantly integrating new technologies. With this, CMB is looking to continue to lead in performance and sustainability. CMB has its head office in Antwerp, but also has branches in Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Brentwood, Amsterdam, Lowestoft and Hamburg.

CMB.TECH (a CMB subsidiary focusing on innovation and development) launched the world's first seaworthy hydrogen-fuelled ship – the Hydroville – in 2017. 14 metres long, and with a displacement of 14 tonnes, the ship has a top speed of 27 knots and can run on diesel if necessary but, given the aim to decarbonise, this is avoided as much as possible.

The Hydroville carries CMB workers back and forth daily between the left and right banks of the Scheldt near Antwerp. At other times, the vessel is used to demonstrate the advantages of hydrogen.

"The Hydroville was an important first step," says Roy Campe, Chief Technology Officer at CMB.TECH. "It took a lot of pioneering work to get the ship up and running. For example, in close cooperation with a team of engineers from Air Liquide, we developed a system to refuel with hydrogen – 'bunkering' in shipping jargon. There was nothing like it in the port of Antwerp.”

"The hydrogen was initially stored in a tube trailer parked on the quayside, but we’ve since then installed a fully-fledged hydrogen refuelling station on the premises. We use it not only to bunker the Hydroville, but also to refuel our own staff’s hydrogen-powered Toyota and Hyundai cars."

Following the Hydroville, the HydroBingo was launched in Japan in the summer of 2021. The HydroBingo is a ferry with capacity for 80 passengers. The ship has two hydrogen/diesel engines, which reduce CO2 emissions by half compared to ships powered by conventional engines.

The ship further distinguishes itself from the Hydroville by being equipped with a mobile hydrogen trailer at the stern. When the trailer is empty, it can easily be unloaded and refuelled via a ramp. Naturally, the HydroBingo, just like the Hydroville, meets all the necessary safety requirements.

Hydrocat and Hydrotug
The Hydrocat and Hydrotug will soon also be launched. The Hydrocat is equipped with dual fuel engines developing more than 1,000 hp and is designed to transport people and materials to and from offshore wind farms. The Hydrotug will soon be the first tugboat in the world with BeHydro engines. These are V12 engines burning hydrogen (85%) in combination with diesel (15%).

In collaboration with ABC Engines, CMB.TECH has developed a family of dual fuel BeHydro medium speed engines, which run on a mixture of diesel and hydrogen (up to 85%). There will also be a single fuel engine running completely on hydrogen, developed specifically for generator applications. With this, ships can generate emission-free electricity while in the port area.

In the same spirit, CMB.TECH now also commercializes Genset engines. These are zero emission hydrogen-powered generators, to replace conventional diesel generators. The engines are a striking example of developments CMB.TECH is currently undertaking beyond the shipping industry. CMB.TECH, in cooperation with Luyckx, has also demonstrated an excavator based on a dual fuel engine. This 37-tonne Hitachi ZX350LC-7 has been converted to be largely hydrogen-powered, which means that it has significantly lower CO2 emissions.

And just a few months after CMB.TECH put its hydrogen filling station into operation, the group launched its first dual fuel hydrogen truck. "Van Moer Logistics and Delhaize use the truck for deliveries to supermarkets. In this way they get practical experience using hydrogen trucks every day, and take that experience with them when they renew their truck fleet."

Why hydrogen?
"The shipping industry is facing increasingly strict emission standards," explains Roy Campe. "And that means that using diesel engines will have to be phased out over time. For smaller ships – inland vessels, coasters, tugboats and the like – hydrogen is the ideal solution. The emission standards could also be met using batteries, but it’s impossible in practice to deploy a battery-powered ship widely. That’s because the battery system would be so big and heavy that the ship would be able to carry hardly any cargo. The recharging time would also be far too long.”

"So we’re fully committed to hydrogen and expect to further extend our cooperation with Air Liquide – our preferred partner for everything hydrogen. We chose Air Liquide because they’ve accumulated a lot of knowledge about hydrogen and are considered a reference in terms of industrial safety."

"It’s a pleasure and constructive working with Air Liquide. We’ve often looked for new solutions together and then actually implemented them. It’s great to see the projects we set up together getting traction. Above all, we want to scale up with Air Liquide to making wider use of hydrogen."

Curious about what Air Liquide can do for you in the hydrogen field? Feel free to contact us with no obligation.