The world’s first hydrogen-fuelled ferry is set to undergo testing as Scotland powers forward in the green energy race.

The Orkney-based European Marine Energy Centre, in collaboration with project partners, is working towards regulatory approval before testing the Shapinsay ferry in a move that could lead to renewably powered ferries on regular routes around the country’s island and coastal communities.

The ferry has initially been trialled using hydrogen to fuel its auxiliary power while docked before undergoing sea tests.

HyDIME builds on this progress with the hydrogen being used to power the auxiliary systems during sailing.

The HyDIME project is made up of a consortium of partners being led by Ferguson Marine. Partners include ULEMCo, Lloyd’s Register, HSSMI and Orkney Islands Council.

It is expected to be the first ferry of its kind powered by hydrogen in this way anywhere in the world.

The HyDIME project will trial a hydrogen/diesel dual fuel conversion system on board the MV Shapinsay. It is expected to be the first vessel of its class (RoPax ferry).

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The new generation of marine energy pioneers such as Orbital Marine Power are now breaking new ground within the sector, are Orbital is working closely with EMEC.

The Herald: The MV Shapinsay. By David Hibbert, Orkney Islands CouncilThe MV Shapinsay. By David Hibbert, Orkney Islands Council

Neil Kermode, EMEC managing director, said since 2003, when the centre was set up through a grouping of public sector organisations, a series of ground-breaking devices deployed. It totals 32 marine energy devices spanning 11 countries..

“In 2018 we had a particularly successful machine, which is now leading to the next generation of machine. It’s by Orbital Marine Power,” he said.

“They actually generated seven per cent of Orkney’s electricity during the year from this. That’s like a day a fortnight, we were running on tidal energy. So we’re starting to actually move the dials on this.”

The 32 marine energy devices in total span 11 countries.

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Mr Kermode said ferries could be sailing from island to island using hydrogen power “within six months” with the right headwinds.

“We’ve now got this set up where we can supply power to the ferries when docked, and we’ve been doing that through the Surf 'n' Turf project,” he said. “The HyDIME Project will builds on this progress and we’ve got the Shapinsay ferry modified now.

The Herald: Neil Kermode says there is huge potential for Scotland in hydrogenNeil Kermode says there is huge potential for Scotland in hydrogen

“Shapinsay is about 30 minute boat ride from Kirkwall the main town in Orkney.
“That ferry has been modified so it’s got the gas cylinders in it. There’s a modification of the engine, which was effectively been completed.

“We’ve got the fuelling system all sorted out, and at the moment, we’re just working our way through some regulatory challenges that have just emerged.

“But we’re expecting to be in a position to be able to run hydrogen in that auxiliary engine pretty much imminently.

“There’s a consent we’re trying to work through with the Coastguard Agency at the moment.”

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The next stage is using the hydrogen power in the engine to propel the ferry.

He said: “Scotland’s obviously got such an opportunity with so many ferries, and so many communities that have got a lot of renewables, and we know we can’t keep burning fossil fuels. So it does all come together and you think, this is certainly something that Scotland could make a good fist of.”

The Herald: The SR2000 being deployed at EMEC tidal test site. By Orbital Marine Power (formerly Scotrenewables)The SR2000 being deployed at EMEC tidal test site. By Orbital Marine Power (formerly Scotrenewables)

The news comes as hydrogen is emerging as a key source of power, and comes after Aberdeen City Council last week took delivery of the world’s first hydrogen-powered double decker bus, which First Group will run using BOC’s refuelling depot at Kittybrewster.

Hydrogen-powered trains are also being developed in a move that would add more weight to the argument that the energy is to be the fuel of the future.

However, commerce and government should move to take advantage of the potential benefits, said Mr Kermode.

“I genuinely think there is an opportunity for Scotland to make the most of this, but it’s not an opportunity that’s going to last it indefinitely. We need to get on with it.”

Around £36 million of public funding has been invested in EMEC by the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Carbon Trust, UK Government, Scottish Enterprise, the European Union and Orkney Islands Council.

TOMORROW: Hydrogen revolution on Scottish roads, rail, and in the air.