Alternative fuels

Ship safety and reliability

Can we run a ship on hydrogen? What does this require in terms of extra storage space? What are the safety implications of extremely cold fuels? By answering these and other technical questions, TNO is helping to ensure that alternative fuels can be used in a technically and economically responsible manner.

“It’s quite possible to run a ship on hydrogen. Only, you will then need four times as much storage space for the fuel,” explains Haico van der Heijden of TNO. “Furthermore, most alternative fuels are very cold: LNG is -150 ºC and hydrogen -240 ºC. If the fuel warms up or in the event of a collision, there’s a safety hazard. In regard to the desired transition to alternative fuels, we’re investigating the possibilities.”

Smart materials

“The trusted techniques for bunker vessels are often not suitable for smaller ships,” continues Van der Heijden. “A stainless-steel tank, for example, has to be cylindrical in shape, which takes up too much space. That’s why we’re researching smart materials with more design freedom, such as thermoplastics that also better insulate the LNG or hydrogen. For navy frigates, we’re even developing fire- and explosion-proof bulkheads, in which there’s interest in worldwide.”

Integrating into the ship

Weight also plays a role in the research. “The main purpose of a tanker is to transport fuel. The funny thing is that the tanker runs on the fuel it carries itself, whereas a fishing or dredging vessel has a separate tank. Because such ships have to carry something other than fuel or carry out specific activities, the weight on board is crucial and so we’re looking for solutions to integrate tanks into the ship.”

Testing and certification

Another point of focus for TNO is supply. Van der Heijden: “In the past, transhipment systems worked with fixed pipes. That works well if a ship has to refuel once a day. But if you have to supply a ship several times a day or even an hour, you don’t want to have fixed pipes but rather a flexible system like the hoses that are already used for LNG. We support industry by testing and certifying such materials.”

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