World’s first: Belgian hydrogen-diesel dual-fuel engine
BeHydro, the joint venture of engine manufacturer Anglo Belgian Corporation (ABC) (and the Belgian shipping giant CMB has presented on Thursday its new engine that can run on hydrogen and diesel at the same time. A world’s first and ready to replace classic diesel engines in ships, trains, or UPS systems (Uninterruptible Power Supply) for hospitals or data centers.
The engine presented now uses a mixture of up to 85% hydrogen, and 15% regular diesel to be injected and burned, generating a power output of 1 MW. Emissions are reduced by 85% this way.
Engines currently under development have a power range between 0,8 and 2,8 MW and are available in 6, 8, 12, and 16 cylinder configurations. BeHydro can roll out some 100 engines a year right now and ready to be delivered in a few months.
Hydrogen driven tugboat
The Antwerp Port will have the world’s first hydrogen driven tugboat equipped with the BeHydro engine operational in 2022. It will be zero-emission for most of its working time, and the good news is that it will cost only 10% more than a conventional tugboat.
The ‘Hydrotug’ will have the ‘dual-fuel engines’ capable of burning hydrogen and diesel. In case there is no hydrogen supply, it can easily switch to ‘normal’ diesel fuel to keep on working. Like in modern diesel cars, particulate filters and catalyst converters will reduce fine particles and NOx emissions as much as possible.
Replacing current diesel engines
The BeHydro engineers say it’s relatively easy to scale up this type of engine to a 10 MW output, opening a range of possibilities in shipping, railway, or electricity generating systems. A 100% hydrogen-burning engine is to be launched within the next six months, offering zero-emission power, depending on the hydrogen used – grey, blue, or green.
Technically it is entirely feasible to replace a current diesel engine by this new type of dual-fuel engine, says ABC CEO Tim Berckmoes. Belgian railway operator NMBS/SNCB, for instance, has 174 diesel locomotives that can easily be upgraded this way to save 85% on emissions. The same goes for ships, from small fishing trawlers to large container ships.
Anglo Belgian Corporation (ABC) describes itself as a leading European manufacturer of medium-speed gas and diesel engines in the power range between 600 and 10 400 kW. The Ghent-based company is active in the field of engine development for over a hundred years already.
These engines are used in the energy and transport industry: propulsion engines and generating sets for marine applications and diesel-hydraulic or diesel-electric engines for locomotive traction applications.
ABC has experience with multiple fuels besides diesel and heavy fuel, like biofuels, liquified (LNG), and compressed natural gas (CNG). The hydrogen-diesel dual-fuel engines will complete the portfolio.
CMB (Company Maritime Belge) was founded in 1895 as a shipping line linking Belgium and the then Belgian colony, Congo. It grew to become a world player with more than 90 ships for dry bulk, container, and chemical shipping. It is controlled by the Saverys family, who also owns major stakes in the Exmar and Euronav groups.
Through its CMB Tech branch, it is active in developing hydrogen combustion engines, among others. CMB’s CEO, Alexander Savereys, is a vivid advocate of hydrogen as the fuel of the future in shipping.
In February this year, CMB revealed its plans to have a first large container ship operational on hydrogen. In 2017 already, it launched the ‘Hydroville’, a hydrogen-driven ferry to transport CMB staff to and from the Antwerp harbor and avoid traffic jams this way. For Japan, CMB developed a ferry on hydrogen for 80 passengers, to be used during the 2021 Olympics.
‘Don’t have to wait ten years’
“Today you see proof of the claim we even today can make the shipping industry sustainable,” Savereys told the local news network AVS. “We don’t have to wait ten years or longer anymore.” Already in 2017, he warned: “The rules on exhaust gases in shipping are getting tougher and tougher, and although there is no CO2 taxation for ships yet, it will come in 2020.”
He turned out to be right, as the European Parliament just voted that ships of 5000 gross tonnages and above should be included in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), after being exempted for years contrary to other transport sectors.
Momentum for hydrogen in Europe
Both CEOs are aware that the price of hydrogen is still high, especially ‘green’ hydrogen produced using sustainable sources like wind and solar energy. But they believe the momentum for hydrogen is there, especially in Europe, that unfolds plans for investments.
In July, the EU Commission revealed its ‘green’ hydrogen (H2) strategy within its Green Deal for the next 30 years with ambitious targets set. By 2024, the EU wants the production of ‘green’ hydrogen to be beefed up by a factor six to 6 gigawatts or one million tons by 2024.
And if critics say there won’t be enough wind and solar energy for economically feasible ‘green’ hydrogen production on such a scale, there is always another Belgian world’s first technology that could change the equation, if invested in. The ‘hydrogen panel’ researchers at the Louvain University developed that produces ‘clean hydrogen’ out of the plain air, just using the sun’s energy.