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hydrogen fuel cell ferry
Image credit: Umoe Mandal

Clean Transport

Hydrogen Fuel Cell News For Passenger Ferries & Mining Trucks

The hydrogen fuel cell is finding a home in new fast ferries in Norway and in giant mining trucks from Cummins and Komatsu.

Ordinarily, CleanTechnica does not report on hydrogen fuel cell developments for two reasons. One, the hydrogen used is often sourced from methane. This so-called “blue hydrogen” is a scam promoted by fossil fuel companies so they can lie to their shareholders and the public about all the wonderful things they are doing to save the planet while they continue to pillage the Earth in pursuit of profits. Two, when the topic is passenger vehicles, it is generally more efficient to just power them with batteries than with fuel cells, which require many energy conversions before any progress down the road actually takes place.

But we are willing to make an exception when the topic is heavy vehicles like passenger ferries and mining trucks, especially if they will be powered by “green hydrogen” that comes from the electrolysis of water and not from reforming methane.

Fuel Cell Powered Fast Ferries For Norway

Norwegian company Teco 2030 is leading a consortium that includes Umoe Mandal, whose expertise is lightweight ships made from composite materials, and Blom Maritime, which specializes in marine structures for offshore commercial ventures. Funded by a grant of €500,000 from the Norwegian government, they will work together to develop hydrogen-powered high speed ships, including fast ferries that can carry as many as 300 passengers at speeds up to 35 knots on long distance runs.

According to Electrive, the consortium plans to select a builder for its fuel cell powered ships by the end of 2023, with sea trials expected to begin in 2025. The first ship will use a fuel cell system from Teco 2030, which will power an energy efficient catamaran design. Umoe Mandal has already built several such ships for the Norwegian navy, but this will be their first propelled by hydrogen fuel cells.

“We are humbled and proud to be qualified to develop the high-speed ship of the future, powered by hydrogen and Teco 2030 fuel cells,” says Teco CEO Tore Enger. “This demonstrates our ability to lead advanced ship developments and design either retrofits or new builds through our maritime expertise.”

“Umoe Mandal has more than 30 years of experience in delivering light and energy efficient ships based on [high speed catamaran] technology. This includes the world’s fastest combat ship, the Skjold-class corvette and the Wavecraft CTV series for the offshore wind market,” says Tom Harald Svennevig, CEO of Umoe Mandal. “We are excited about this opportunity to develop and approve a hydrogen powered zero emission version of our vessels”

Teco 2030 is building Norway’s first “gigafactory” for fuel cells to be used in ships in Narvik in northern Norway. The fuel cell factory, which should start operations this year, will be accompanied by a development center. The EU has upped its green hydrogen targets in the light of the current European energy crisis, while the EU Council recently targeted the marine sector to reduce CO2 limits.

Fuel Cell Mining Trucks From Cummins & Komatsu

hydrogen fuel cell mining truck

Hydrogen fuel cell powered mining truck. Image credit: Cummins

Cummins has a global reputation for making diesel engines that power medium and heavy duty trucks and industrial equipment. Those engines spew incredible amounts of carbon dioxide and other pollutants from their exhaust pipes while they work. Komatsu builds some of the biggest mining trucks on the planet, many of them fitted with diesel engines. Now Cummins and Komatsu have agreed to collaborate on finding ways to make some of those gargantuan mining trucks and other industrial equipment free of carbon emissions by replacing their diesel engines with hydrogen fuel cells.

Electrive reports that Komatsu and several of its customers from the mining industry founded the Komatsu Greenhouse Gas Alliance last year to promote electrification in this sector through joint development work. The first goal of the alliance is to develop an existing Komatsu concept that will be able to run on a variety of energy sources, including a diesel-electric hybrid drive, an overhead electrical line, a battery pack, or a hydrogen fuel cell

“Komatsu’s deep expertise in mining and equipment design and integration paired with our advanced power technologies including hydrogen fuel cells will accelerate decarbonization of mining equipment,” said Amy Davis, Vice President and President of New Power at Cummins. “The mining industry has great potential to lead in adopting renewable solutions.”

As a leading independent power provider in the mining segment, Cummins understands that it is critical to supply its customers with reliable, quality products that can withstand the harshest environments. Cummins has a broad portfolio of batteries, fuel cell systems, and electrolyzers for generating hydrogen that are key building blocks for decarbonization. Together, the two companies have a long history in the global mining market and strong technical capabilities necessary to develop these new solutions.

As a company, Komatsu is committed to minimizing environmental impact and is targeting a 50% reduction in carbon emissions from the production and use of its products by 2030 compared to 2010 levels. The collaboration with Komatsu is part of Cummins’ Destination Zero strategy to reduce the greenhouse gas and air quality impacts of its products and reach net zero emissions by 2050. This commitment requires changes to Cummins’ products and the energy sources that power them.

Electrive points out that hydrogen fuel cell solutions also offer special advantages. At the recent Reuters hydrogen conference, Fortescue Metals said hydrogen infrastructure can be built according to known loads and distances for immediate uptake in mining operations and that hydrogen systems work well in remote situations where grid power is not available. In addition, hydrogen fuel cells provide a greater density of power for extra-large vehicles and can be refueled in minutes, which benefits vehicles that companies like to keep in constant operation. Some of these vehicles operate continuously 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The Takeaway

Green hydrogen has many important uses. It can lower or eliminate carbon emissions that result from making steel or cement. If it can reduce emissions from shipping and mining equipment, that is truly welcome news.

We hear a lot about what a dirty business mining is from anti-EV folks these days. It’s true that wresting nickel, lithium, cobalt, manganese, and many of the rare earth minerals used in electric motors from the Earth causes significant carbon emissions and scars the land around the mines.

Yet those same snowflakes have never uttered a whimper of protest about the horrors of the Alberta tar sands, the environmental and social destruction of pipelines, the unimaginable pollution caused by slurry ponds at coal-fired generating plants, or the practice of strip mining, which rips the tops off mountains and dumps them into the valleys below.

That sort of Earth abuse is perfectly acceptable to fossil fuel apologists because, hey, people gotta drive gargantuan cars and trucks, right? They are sure it says so in the Bible, or the Constitution, or somewhere. But pollution and commerce go hand in hand. If fuel cells powered by green hydrogen can cut emissions from mining and coastal ships, we’re all for it.

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