Hydrogen Power for Hebridean Ferries

Hydrogen Power for Hebridean Ferries
Ferries Using Hydrogen Power Could be Serving the Outer Hebrides Within Five Years (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Scotland - The backers of an ambitious green energy scheme say that ferries powered by hydrogen could be serving the Outer Hebrides within five years.

Hydrogen technology, produced by a community wind farm on the Isle of Lewis, is seen as a necessary replacement for the oil-powered ferry fleet.

The Point and Sandwick Trust has secured Scottish government funding for a feasibility study and will work with industry partners, including Siemens Gamesa, Engie and ITM Power as well as with CMAL, the owners of Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries.

Calum MacDonald, the trust’s development director, said its “simple but bold vision” was to harness the potential of the community-owned wind farm to “power the lifeline ferry services”.

Clean hydrogen is produced when an electrolyser is used to split water into its component parts. Scientists believe hydrogen could increasingly be used to replace oil as a fuel source.

“Both the Scottish government and Caledonian MacBrayne are keen to green the ferry fleet, not least because marine transport is heavily polluting, burning very heavy oils,” Mr MacDonald said. “Hydrogen is one of the more suitable ways of achieving this aim. Batteries aren’t practical, because the journeys are too long and the batteries would be too heavy.”

He warned that practical problems would have to be overcome to achieve “a cost-effective reality”, including scaling up the capacity of electrolysers to make the quantities of hydrogen required for the ships; developing systems to handle, transport and store the hydrogen on piers; and adapting ships to run on hydrogen. While hydrogen has been used for small vessels it has yet to be used successfully for larger vessels.

Clark MacFarlane, managing director of Siemens, said “a smart, local energy system” could have far-reaching effects. “The knowledge gained from this low-carbon infrastructure project can equally be applied to decarbonising road transport,” he said.

Source: The Times