WITH North America and parts of Asia suffering dangerously high, record-breaking temperatures this summer, the fight against climate change is becoming ever more critical. It is a struggle that requires global cooperation but is also one where every innovation counts as we move towards a net-zero carbon footprint. Orkney Islands Council might have the country's smallest council population, but as the council-owned Harbour Authority business development manager, Paul Olvhoj notes, its carbon reduction and innovation plans are hugely ambitious.

The Council recently agreed a master plan for Orkney Harbour with the potential for a £230 million infrastructure build, which includes the construction of the new Scapa Deep Water Quay, in Scapa Flow as well as extensions to existing facilties. The Harbours Masterplan is designed to put the Harbour in an excellent position to help with the development of the next wave of offshore wind farms.


As Olvhoj notes, Scotland’s Crown Estate is expected to announce which consortia have been successful in their bids for blocks of offshore sites in the first quarter of 2022. “We know that the various consortia are already hard at work in the planning and supply chain development process. They will need access to deep water facilities and plenty of hard laydown areas and the masterplan provides for exactly this,” he comments.

The build-out of offshore wind farms that will follow the Crown Estate announcements next year will dominate renewables activities over the next decade or so. “Orkney has a fantastic opportunity to help accelerate Scotland and the UK’s move to renewable power. We are on a very tight timeline here to have everything ready when it is needed,” he comments.

In early July, the Council signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Crown Estate Scotland, which commits the two to work together on the deepwater quay project. Scapa Flow is already Europe’s largest natural harbour and is ideally placed to serve as a renewables hub, supporting the next wave of offshore renewables off Scotland’s coastline. As Olvhoj explains, the new quay will have an obvious role to play in the construction and assembly of wind turbines, and as a base for the operations and maintenance aspects of the developments as well as marshalling and storage of components.

Designed for use by large vessels involved in the construction of wind farms, it will have a water depth of 15 metres for vessels tying up to the quay. Council Leader James Stockan, commenting on the MoU, said that the Council was very encouraged by the number of wind farm developers who have expressed strong interest in getting involved in the project. “We are delighted that Crown Estate Scotland will be working closely with us as the project develops,” he said.


The Council is also pushing forward with plans to further extend its shore-to-ship power infrastructure. The main benefit of this project, which has been developing since 2018 and which received funding the following year, is that it will enable ships to use landbased mains power instead of keeping their engines running overnight. “Clearly, if ships can use the surplus power that our renewables infrastructure provides on Orkney, instead of their own engines, they are saving fuel and making a significant reduction in their carbon emissions,” Olvhoj notes.

Orkney is grid constrained as to the amount of renewable generated power that it can send to the Scottish mainland. Putting in place the infrastructure to bring that surplus power to the quayside so that vessels berthing overnight can tap into it, is hugely beneficial. The Northlink Ferry service will soon be able to use shore power at night when berthed at Stromness. We have ambitious plans to include shore power and infrastructure for carbon free future fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia at our facilities. Grid issues will also be a central concern for many of the offshore wind farms that are scheduled to be developed. One solution that Orkney has been in the forefront of pioneering is the idea of using surplus renewable power to produce hydrogen or ammonia through the electrolysis that can be used locally, for shipping and export.

 In a successful pilot project, two power sources, the community-owned wind turbine on the island of Eday, which often produces more power than can be exported to the UK grid, along with a tidal power generator, provide green power to produce green hydrogen. “We have successfully validated the “Surf n’ Turf project. The European Marine Energy Centre’s electrolyser uses power from the Eday turbine and from the tidal turbines at its marine energy test site to produce hydrogen. This is stored and transported to Kirkwall,” he comments.


In a related move, EMEC and the Council are involved in an innovative pilot project to test the viability of hydrogen as a fuel source for the Scapinsay Ferry. In July last year, a course developed in Orkney to equip ship crews with the knowledge and expertise needed to work alongside hydrogen-powered engines was approved by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The approval was a huge milestone in the HyDIME project, HyDIME being short for Hydrogen Diesel Injection in a Marine Environment. The course was developed by Orkney College UHI’s Maritime Studies department in Stromness.

“The next step is for marine engine manufacturers to make the breakthroughs that will be required to bring about efficient hydrogen or ammonia-powered engines for maritime vessels. That is still some way off, but the innovative work that has already gone on in Orkney is undoubtedly playing a role in transforming maritime travel’s dependence on oil, or even on LNG,” he comments.

“We are seeing so many different ideas around hydrogen as a replacement energy source, helping the transition away from fossil fuels. There is a huge amount for us to do here in Orkney to keep up the pace of innovation. We are punching well above our weight in the fight against climate change. We have a hardearned reputation for being at the forefront of things in the renewable energy market and we are looking to build on this."


Council is making a splash using hydrogen as marine fuel.

HeraldScotland: MV Shapinsay is the first ferry of its kind powered by hydrogen in this way anywhere in the worldMV Shapinsay is the first ferry of its kind powered by hydrogen in this way anywhere in the world

IN 2018 Orkney Island Council and its partners received a £400,000 grant from Innovate UK to launch the HiDIME project.

This involved working through the challenges of injecting hydrogen into a diesel marine engine, on Orkney Ferries’ MV Shapinsay.

In the latest milestone, the ship’s crew of five successfully completed a second course, this time on working with hydrogen, including how to fight a hydrogen fire (hydrogen fires are almost invisible to the naked eye).

In 2020 the crew passed a course on the handling and storage of hydrogen.

Both courses were devised by Orkney College UHI’s maritime studies department in collaboration with Orkney Ferries and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC).

The whole HiDIME project is something of a proof of concept and builds on the significant amount of research into hydrogen injection in diesel marine engines.

There are some significant challenges for engineers when it comes to blending hydrogen and diesel.

A certain amount of hydrogen injected into diesel fuel improves the thermal efficiency of the fuel, but there are also heat and volume pressure issues.

Nevertheless, there is an ever increasing number of projects on zero emission vessels (ZEVs) around the world, either already in full swing or getting started. Orkney’s hydrogen safety courses are already attracting attention from other countries.

The European Marine Energy Centre’s electrolyser on the island of Eday has played a key role in the HiDIME project. It was initially powered by tidal turbines at EMEC’s marine test site and is also optionally fed from the community-owned wind turbine on Eday.

Control switchgear inside EMEC’s substation determines whether the power fed to the electrolyser is to be routed from the tidal generators being tested at EMEC’s Fall of Warness site or the community wind turbine. The electrolyser is housed in a standard 20′ by 10′ ISO container and can generate up to 220 kg of high purity, fuel cell grade hydrogen per day.

Hydrogen gas is produced via electrolysis at 20 bar which is then passed into a compressor to further pressurise the gas to 200 bar at which point it is stored.

Up to 500 kg of hydrogen can be stored in storage cylinders on site. The hydrogen can then be transferred to specially designed mobile storage units (MSUs) and transported to the Orkney mainland by road and ferry.

Each MSU can transport 250 kg of hydrogen. The MSUs consist of 59 lightweight composite cylinders made of aluminium with a Kevlar wrap, specially designed to comply with road restrictions. The hydrogen can then be used locally in a variety of fuel, power and heat applications in hydrogen technology projects.

For more information visit www.orkneyharbours.com