SCOTLAND’S main ferry operator is planning to develop the world’s first vessel powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
The revolutionary vessel would produce no exhaust fumes and could run on gas produced using spare electricity generated overnight from wind farms.
The plans have been unveiled by the firm which owns Caledonian MacBrayne’s west coast ferries and harbours, which has just completed research for Scottish Enterprise which it said proved their feasibility. Guy Platten, chief executive of Caledonian Maritime Assets (CMal), said: “I’m confident we can build a ship with hydrogen fuel cells – it’s an exciting prospect. It could be a game changer for Scotland if we go ahead with this. We would have a carbon-neutral ship with no emissions. The potential is massive.”
Platten is seeking £500,000 of further funding to develop the project, including into the manufacture and storage of hydrogen in ports.
This could lead to a £15 million demonstration vessel being built within a few years.
CMal is at the forefront of ferry design, with the world’s first seagoing diesel-electric hybrid ferry being launched in Port Glasgow tomorrow.
Hallaig will go into service on the Skye-Raasay route next summer, with a second following it to run across Loch Fyne between Portavadie and Tarbert later in the year.
The hydrogen cell project was inspired by a visit to Transport for London’s hydrogen-powered buses. CMal teamed up with Logan Energy, St Andrews University and the Scottish Hydrogen Fuel Cell Association.
The research looked at new ways of manufacturing hydrogen by passing an electric current through water, powered by renewable energy such as from wind farms. This would cut cost and enable production close to ferry routes, removing the need for it to be brought in by tanker. Hydrogen has traditionally been made using coal or gas, which produces carbon dioxide emissions.
A spokesman for Scottish Enterprise said: “Against the backdrop of a global drive to reduce vessel emissions, this project has the potential to put Scotland at the forefront of global developments in sustainable ferries.”
Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said: “CMal are at the forefront of global developments in designing sustainable ferries and are not only taking forward innovative work to ensure the latest green technology is incorporated into future vessels, but have played a central role to deliver a world-first in hybrid ferry design.”