Hydrocat: first H2-powered crew transfer vessel for wind parks

CMB-Tech, the tech daughter of Belgian shipping giant Compagnie Maritime Belge (CMB), and another daughter, Dutch Windcat Workboats, have presented the ‘Hydrocat’, the world’s first hydrogen-powered crew transfer vessel (CTV) of this size. It’s 25 meters long, 7,3 m wide, and can cruise at a speed of 30 knots (55 km/h).

The Hydrocat, with a price tag of nearly six million euros, is the first of four to be delivered to bring service personnel to the offshore wind parks. It will be operational starting in June of this year.

80% on hydrogen

The Hydrocat 48 is propelled by a MAN diesel engine that is retrofitted for dual-fuel use by CMB.Tech with a hydrogen injection system. The boat can run on 80% of hydrogen, needing only 20% of diesel fuel. When no hydrogen is available, it can run on classic diesel only.

According to CMB Tech, as a form of pre-treatment, a precisely measured quantity of hydrogen is added to the charge air. This mixture of hydrogen and air is then ignited with the injected diesel fuel in the combustion chamber of the cylinders. Depending on the engine’s operating point, only a tiny amount of diesel fuel is needed.

“The suitability of this technology for a CTV is mainly because existing diesel engines can be used. No fundamental changes to the main engine are required, which not only means that maintenance and repair remain simple, but also that the engine can easily be switched back to diesel fuel without any modifications,” says CMB-Tech CTO Roy Campe.

Mobile hydrogen filling station

“Even if hydrogen is not available, the vessel can continue to run on traditional fuel, making it a very robust and reliable solution for the offshore wind industry.” To ensure the Hydrocat access to enough hydrogen, CMB-Tech provides a 40ft 500bar trailer for remote refueling, which is developed for several applications on sites with no access to hydrogen.

A mobile hydrogen filling station is seen as a way to avoid the high cost associated with a fixed infrastructure, which is often the primary threshold for companies to invest in green technology. Several companies could share a mobile station.

First hydrogen ferry

The first hydrogen ship CMB developed is the ‘Hydroville’, used since 2017 on the River Scheldt in Antwerp to transport people and avoid traffic jams. By the end of the year, the Antwerp Port will have the world’s first hydrogen-driven tugboat operational with the same tech delivered by CMB.

The engines for the new tug are developed by Ghent-based marine engine and genset expert ABC (Anglo Belgian Corporation). Since 1912, ABC builts a range of marine engines for river barges up to coastal freighters and tugs. The latter typically uses two engines to provide enough power for towing ships.

Alternative for diesel trains and ships

In September 2020, BeHydro, the joint venture of engine manufacturer ABC and CMB, presented its new engine that can run on hydrogen and diesel simultaneously. 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 then 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.



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