Landmark Highlands project to look at decarbonising maritime transport sector

A Highlands “global centre of excellence” launched earlier this year to work on research into renewable energy technologies will look at ways of making shipping greener after securing its first project.

Led by manager Mina Hanna, the Powerhouse is joining forces with the Port of Cromarty Firth, the University of St Andrews, ZEM Fuel Systems and Low Emissions Resources Global to examine ways of decarbonising the maritime transport sector.

The project will test how green hydrogen technologies can be used to minimise the industry’s environmental footprint, with the aim of developing a cleaner fuel to be used out at sea.

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While hydrogen is seen as a clean alternative fuel source, hydrogen gas has low volumetric energy density under standard conditions. Therefore, an efficient liquid hydrogen carrier is needed such as ammonia.

The Powerhouse is joining forces with the Port of Cromarty Firth (pictured), the University of St Andrews, ZEM Fuel Systems and Low Emissions Resources Global to examine ways of decarbonising the maritime transport sector. Picture: Stratos UAS Ltd

The project aims to develop a novel solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) system to efficiently convert ammonia as a liquid hydrogen carrier directly into water and nitrogen, yielding electric power. Over seven months, project partners will conduct trials to monitor performance at scale.

If successful, the initiative could lead to major advances towards decarbonising the maritime sector in a bid to help Scotland and the UK achieve net-zero climate goals.

The initial project is set to last until March. It is being funded by the UK Department for Transport’s clean maritime demonstration competition, delivered in partnership with innovation agency Innovate UK.

The Powerhouse, which is based in Alness Point Business Park, Easter Ross, was launched with the ambition of ensuring Scotland becomes a world leader in future renewable energy technologies.

Hanna said: “It is great that we can announce this fantastic joint research project with our partners which is expected to lead to major advances towards decarbonising the maritime sector to help Scotland and the UK achieve their net-zero climate obligations.

“The PowerHouse forecasts significant opportunities in maritime innovation, with hydrogen derivative fuels expected to play a major role in decarbonising the sector.”

Bob Buskie, chief executive of the Port of Cromarty Firth, said: “This project is fantastic news for the Powerhouse and the port is proud to be involved in it. The opportunities presented by green hydrogen are vast and its importance to not only the future of the maritime industry but the UK as a whole cannot be underestimated.

“Together with our partners, we hope this project can change the face of the maritime industry, and make it an exemplar of clean, green transportation methods for decades to come.”

John Irvine, a professor at the University of St Andrews, added: “Emissions from maritime are a highly significant contributor to both greenhouse gases and air pollution that has barely been addressed to date. It is critical that we urgently work on appropriate decarbonisation solutions for this sector.

“Ammonia offers several advantages in this context. It is a dense and transportable store of hydrogen providing the energy needs for long distance freight. Used in conjunction with a fuel cell system, we can create electrical energy without generating nitrogen oxides that pollute our environment.”

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