Grimsby will become one of the world’s clean maritime clusters under bold plans just backed to make offshore wind even greener.
And spin-off benefits will be open to the wider maritime industry – while also providing potential opportunities for municipal land-based transport transitions.
This week has seen almost £300,000 of the initial £400,000 projected cost to build the business case for the National Clean Maritime Demonstration Hub signed off by the Department for Transport.
At the forefront is zero emission fuel supply and charging infrastructure, but plans go much deeper – as do the vessels it aims to serve.
Stuart Barnes, clean maritime innovation lead at the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult is heading the project, which has globally-recognised partners from engineering giant Wood to shipbuilder Harland & Wolff joining host ABP and existing fuel partner, Hull-headquartered Rix Group.
The Innovate UK-led Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition brought the match-funding for private sector partners while covering all the Catapult input.
Mr Barnes said: “We have been very mindful of the offshore wind energy industry’s desire to decarbonise its vessels for some time, but that is more challenging than it may seem.
“The technical ability is there, but to enable the transition there is work to be done in regulatory terms but also there’s a ‘chicken and egg’ scenario: The vessel operators might want to change but the fuel itself may not be available – there’s no charge point or hydrogen pump perhaps; or the port operator wants to provide the fuel but there aren’t the vessels ready to take it. We are working to address that.
“The Department for Transport issued the competition and we bought into it. We are now looking to put the business case together for something we are calling the National Clean Maritime Demonstration Hub, and what that will do is get government to invest – alongside industry collaboration – in fuel infrastructure in the Port of Grimsby, helping those using the vessels in the offshore wind industry to decarbonise, while at the same time also developing a demonstration site, a showcase space – unlike anywhere else – inviting companies to test new work, have it validated, put it on show to the industry, while working with regulators and investors.
“It would be a supply chain support hub, bringing everything under one roof to make sure Grimsby becomes one of the world’s clean maritime clusters.”
ORE Catapult has already made Grimsby its centre of excellence for operations and maintenance, with a number of firsts in the fuel transition already emerging – from the offshore hydrogen production test bed to the first operational assignment by a vessel running on hydrogenated vegetable oil.
Talking through the partners, Mr Barnes said: “Rix and ABP are known well on the Humber, but we have Harland & Wolff, a major UK shipyard looking to get behind UK shipbuilding for the industry; TP Group, who have been designing, manufacturing, installing and servicing electrolysers on Royal Navy submarines since the 1950s, bringing a lot of experience of marinised electrolysers as they look to design a system, with Lloyd’s Register coming on board to provide guidance on standards, regulation and class.
“Wood, the engineering group, is an international company and we have Bibby Marine Services, operating the larger service operation vessels and The Workboat Association as well, the trade association for the crew transfer vessels coming in and out of Grimsby.
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“We have industry advisors on board, Orsted, and North East Lincolnshire Council helping inform.”
This is where it could transfer from port to place. “If we have electrolysers – hydrogen production – then buses and the waste fleet could be potential users,” Mr Barnes said.
Maersk Training is also at the table with port operators, stevedores and vessel crew all needing to train on clean maritime systems.
“It is a good mix of skills and interests from manufacturing, design and standards – I feel we have got all bases covered,” Mr Barnes said. The door remains open too. We want to attract more industry advisors, whether that’s from the Humber or nationally.”
Work on the detail begins now with hopes of first fuelling in two years time.
“We have been successful with the first tranche of funding and that will pay for the seven month piece of work, putting together the business case – setting out consenting requirements, regulatory requirements, cost, location, operating model, market demand and design of system,” Mr Barnes said. “We then have to submit an end of project report in March next year. Beyond that it is back to the government to secure support for the full capital requirement, with a desire to be operational by 2023.”
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