"We’re convinced hydrogen is the best solution"

Future Proof Shipping building zero-emission ships
Hydrogen Energy
27 June 2022

Future Proof Shipping (FPS) provides solutions to facilitate zero-emission shipping. The company has a fleet of inland waterway/short-sea vessels in the pipeline that will be made available for charter. Customers who want to transport goods emission-free on the Rhine can now already book container space through FPS. FPS also offers consultancy services on zero-emission shipping.

FPS wants to put ten zero-emission ships into service within the next five years. Initially, these will be existing diesel ships converted to zero-emission. The first of these – the Maas – will be commissioned before the end of 2022. The Maas is a 110-metre inland vessel powered by three 275 kW polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells powered by hydrogen.

Totally emission-free
The hydrogen system is housed in four special 40-foot containers placed on the deck of the Maas. Two of these containers will house the fuel cells, while the others will each contain 500 kg of compressed hydrogen. This gives the ship a sailing range of 500 km. In comparison with a traditional diesel drive, this means 2,000 tonnes less CO2 emitted per year. In addition, particulate emissions are reduced to zero.

"For us, it’s crucial that our ships’ propulsion is completely emission-free," says Richard Klatten, Future Proof Shipping CEO. "We’re also opting for proven technology. We have to, because our ships will soon be in commercial use. And that’s only possible if you have a reliable, solid and safe drive system."

The only emission-free and reliable solutions are still batteries and hydrogen. "The problem is that batteries are not efficient enough for longer journeys. And the infrastructure to recharge battery systems with such high charging capacities within a reasonable timeframe is either non-existent or almost non-existent,” says Klatten. “And, in the end, batteries would run out of power far too quickly on rivers with countercurrents, such as the Rhine."

Exchange Containers and renewable hydrogen
"Renewable hydrogen has none of these disadvantages. On the other hand, of course, there should be options for new hydrogen storage and the necessary safety measures must be taken into account."

"The Maas will be sailing between Rotterdam and Meerhout, and so hydrogen loading points have already been provided near Rotterdam, Antwerp, and Meerhout. But because it takes quite a long time to compress enough hydrogen to fill two 500 kg containers, we opted for a system where the empty hydrogen containers are immediately replaced by full containers ready for use, at the various loading points. Either way, we’re convinced hydrogen is the best solution."

Stringent safety requirements
"Air Liquide has been involved in Future Proof Shipping’s plans from the very beginning. They’ve developed the containers for the hydrogen drive and they’ve done pioneering work on safety issues."

The containers – known as Exchange Containers or Hydrogen Energy Packs - can store 500 kg of hydrogen at a pressure of 300 bar. Partly because the containers are defined as fuel tanks by maritime organisations, they have to meet stringent safety requirements.

Partnership around transition
Working closely with the Holland Shipyards Group and various subcontractors, Air Liquide provided expertise and engineering in connection with safety on and around the ship. This was achieved in consultation with Lloyd’s Register and the Netherlands government, who had to approve the whole project. And, of course, Air Liquide also supplies renewable hydrogen for the Maas.

Transport maritime de courte distance (“short sea shipping”)
"As soon as we can demonstrate that our approach works in practice with the Maas, we want to rapidly expand our emission-free fleet. Not only for inland shipping, but also for short-sea application. By 2050, most ships in Europe will have to be emission-free, which is why we’re convinced that the role of hydrogen in shipping is now going to evolve very quickly."