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We talked about the study and the potential of hydrogen for the maritime industry with Dr. Leo Diehl, Project Manager & Consultant, Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemstechnik GmbH (LBST).

According to your study, the demand for hydrogen in the maritime industry is estimated at 3.5 million tons per year. What are the main applications in the maritime industry driving this demand?

LD: The demand is dominated by ocean-going shipping and thus its application as a fuel. Here, derivatives, e.g., methanol or ammonia based on renewable hydrogen, are mainly used due to the high performance requirements. To illustrate, tankers or cargo ships here typically have nominal power demands between 6 and 12 MW. Inland shipping follows at a great distance and could use about 100,000 tons of hydrogen in the long term, i.e., by 2045. Due to the greater synergy potential, especially along the Rhine, inland navigation could already use larger quantities in the medium term, i.e., by the early 2030s. Moreover, in contrast to ocean-going shipping, compressed hydrogen and fuel cells will play a greater role here. Our analyses have also shown that via many smaller applications, such as dark radiators or forklifts, the very heterogeneous maritime sector has great value creation potential beyond serving sheer volume.

How do you see the potential of hydrogen as an alternative energy source for the maritime industry compared to other green technologies?

LD: As already mentioned, in areas of extremely high power densities for offshore engines, hydrogen and its derivatives are virtually without alternative. In the area of smaller applications, much depends on the synergy potential of the respective environment. However, since ports will position themselves as energy hubs, for example, and hydrogen will ultimately be ubiquitous here, we believe there will be high synergy potential and thus advantages over other green technologies. In any case, hydrogen will be able to and will have to play a significant role alongside direct power grid connections or pure battery solutions.

Which challenges need to be overcome to achieve full integration of hydrogen into the maritime sector?

LD: Technically, one can be very optimistic. There are no major challenges or "roadblocks" to be identified here on the applicability side. What is challenging are the framework conditions. The regulatory framework for the maritime sector and thus the courage for a coordinated decision on a technology path and for operation with hydrogen and derivatives is still missing. Other essential framework conditions for the switch to H2 technologies are investment and planning security, which can be created, for example, by binding CO2 reduction targets. Functioning business cases and the availability of H2 technologies as well as fuels are essential building blocks. Especially the ramp-up and broad market introduction will reduce the costs for H2 technologies and renewable fuels.

What successes already exist in the use of hydrogen in the maritime sector?

LD: Hydrogen in the form of its derivative methanol is playing an increasing role in new orders from the major shipping companies. Both Maersk and Hapag Lloyd have officially announced that they are ordering, or have ordered, methanol-fueled container ships. In addition, the activities of the enerPort II project or at the Tollerort Terminal in the Port of Hamburg are worth mentioning. Even the Lake Constance shipping industry is actively considering the commercial use of hydrogen ships.

What innovative approaches or technologies are currently being developed to meet the hydrogen demand of the maritime industry?

LD: Innovative solutions develop through cooperation, for example, between German suppliers and shipbuilders. In order to achieve rapid decarbonization in the cruise industry, for example, fuel cell systems in combination with batteries offer a systemically optimized overall solution that is absolutely new territory in terms of its control for a ship propulsion system. For example, Freudenberg, with their fuel cells, and Meyer Werft are cooperating on this.

What will be the environmental and carbon footprint implications of the increased use of hydrogen in the maritime industry?

LD: 90% of goods are transported by sea today. Without the successful decarbonization of this sector, the energy transition cannot succeed. Although we have not explicitly considered the environmental impact in this study, we know from other analyses that the use of green hydrogen, i.e., hydrogen produced from renewable electricity, decisively reduces the carbon footprint. As in other so-called "hard-to-abate" sectors (literally, "difficult to mitigate"), green hydrogen is a key building block for full decarbonization in the maritime sector. Due to the overall somewhat lower material intensity of hydrogen technologies, for example compared to battery technologies, other environmental impacts are also to be assessed more positively.

What is the hydrogen supply infrastructure in ports and along maritime routes and what investments are needed to develop it?

LD: No question, the switch to hydrogen requires major investments. In any case, the use of derivatives, such as methanol, forces a change in bunkering strategies, that is, the refueling of ships. This means that ports that today have actually no or only limited bunker infrastructure will have to develop or expand it. However, further investigations must show whether and which ports are affected in Germany. Nonetheless, the positive example of the use of LNG has shown in the past that a technology decision in Europe leads to the relevant players "following suit" along the trade routes as far as East Asia and in America.

The bunkering strategy also needs to be adapted in the inland shipping sector. Especially along the Rhine with its many chemical centers and urban areas, however, there are relatively many good synergy approaches to be found. Particularly in the further development and expansion of an infrastructure for compressed hydrogen, ports can become central "hubs", both on the port side for the bunkering of ships and the refueling of handling equipment, and on the land side for the refueling of trucks, trains, buses and cars.

What is the role of international cooperation and policy frameworks in promoting the use of hydrogen in the maritime industry?

LD: As already mentioned, the regulatory framework is essential for an industry that faces strong competition in order to manage such a transformation. Of course, for an industry that stands for international exchange like no other, global cooperation plays a crucial role.

The recent decision by the IMO (International Maritime Organization) to make shipping climate-neutral "by 2050", as well as the EU's FuelEU Maritime targets, send important positive signals. A self-confident German industry should become aware of its levers and strive for global decarbonization in the maritime sector as well. This would open up new potential for value creation in the field of propulsion technology through fuel cells and engines, and furthermore ensure the gain of know-how, for example on energy-optimized bow designs or ship propellers.

Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik GmbH (LBST) is a consulting company for sustainable energy supply and mobility. With our expertise in technologies, markets and politics, we support international customers from industry, the financial sector, politics and associations with questions on strategies, feasibility and markets. Large companies trust LBST's reliable assessments. Four decades of continuous experience of the interdisciplinary team of renowned experts form the basis of LBST's comprehensive competence.

Through energy concepts and technical analyses, LBST has been dealing with the topic of hydrogen in the maritime sector for over 10 years.