BeHydro's new hydrogen-capable, dual-fuel prime mover (credit: BeHydro)BeHydro’s new hydrogen-capable, dual-fuel prime mover (credit: BeHydro)

A Belgian pairing of influential shipping and engineering interests has given a fillip to the industry’s drive for viable low-carbon or carbon-free technologies by launching a hydrogen-fuelled medium-speed engine, writes David Tinsley.

The market release of a hydrogen-capable, dual-fuel prime mover opens the portfolio planned by the BeHydro joint venture of Antwerp-based Compagnie Maritime Belge (CMB) and the Ghent medium-speed designer and manufacturer ABC Engines. The timing was significant, given the European Commission’s announcement on 17 September that it was stepping up plans to achieve European climate neutrality by 2050.

Over the past three years, the BeHydro partners have developed a hydrogen dual-fuel prototype, progressed a monofuel hydrogen version, and have made preparations for volume production. The development was the subject of an interview with CMB’s Roy Campe in The Motorship in 2019. The mono hydrogen type is due to augment the range during the second quarter of 2021.

In BeHydro, ABC and CMB had initially focused on a portfolio spanning the 800-2,800kW power band, but are now looking towards a much bigger market through significant upscaling of the design concept. By injecting and burning hydrogen, the medium-speed engines are expected to produce 85% less CO2 emissions than a standard diesel engine.

The first contract arises from the revolutionary HydroTug newbuild expected to be ready for deployment in Antwerp by 2022. CMB has been tasked with the provision of the HydroTug, which will represent an important stage in the roll-out of the port’s green agenda. The installation will comprise two 2MW BeHydro dual-fuel (hydrogen/diesel) engines. The CO2 emission abatement achieved by burning hydrogen will be complemented by NOx and particulate matter (PM) minimisation in diesel mode through the specification of a catalyser and particle filter.

The BeHydro generation will have a broad application potential, encompassing power generation and rail traction besides marine propulsion and auxiliary duties. The business scope also reflects ABC Engines’ main market sectors.

ABC added LNG dual-fuel models to its production programme some years ago and subsequently worked on new dual-fuel solutions using methanol and hydrogen. Investigations included recourse to a single-cylinder test engine at WTZ Rosslau in Germany. Thus, a wealth of reciprocating engine experience has been fed into BeHydro, aligned with CMB’s commitment to the realisation of hydrogen power solutions ultimately as competitive options for its extensive fleet of deepsea ships.

In 2017, CMB gave form to its ambitions by introducing a 14m hydrogen-powered passenger catamaran on the River Scheldt. The technology demonstrator constituted an early step in its long-term goal. The craft was built in the UK by BW Seacat of Portsmouth and fitted with two Volvo Penta hydrogen dual-fuel engines incorporating hydrogen systems supplied and installed by another UK firm, Revolve Technologies of Essex, a pioneer in the development of hydrogen internal combustion engines.

CMB subsequently acquired Revolve Technologies, which was rebranded as CMB Tech. Investment is now being ploughed into the UK affiliate’s engine testing capabilities, including upgraded cooling towers, as it accelerates work on hydrogen mono- and dual-fuel engines.

Last year, CMB signed a pact with Tsuneishi Facilities & Craft (TFC) of Japan for a project to develop and build a passenger ferry powered by a dual-fuel hydrogen/diesel engine. The newbuild is due to be delivered from TFC’s premises at Onomichi in 2021.

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