Norway announced a trailblazing project that will see the introduction of possibly the first large hydrogen-powered ferries offering year-round daily commercial service, Through the development and launch of the two ferries, scheduled to enter service late in 2025, Norway expects to provide an example for other segments of the maritime industry while also fostering and advancing the development of its hydrogen industry.
The Norwegian Public Roads Administration awarded a contract to Norwegian ferry operator Torghatten Nord for the construction and operation of the new ferries after a competitive bidding process which saw at least three companies competing for the pioneering project. The 15-year contract calls for Torghatten Nord to build two ferries that will operate year-round powered by hydrogen as well as retrofitting two existing ferries on the route from LNG to a biofuel solution.
Torghatten Nord predicted after signing the contract that the pioneering work that is now being started to develop and operate the hydrogen ferries will have ripple effects for the Norwegian hydrogen industry and the broader maritime sector.
“We will be the first major buyer of hydrogen in Norway, thanks to the Norwegian Public Roads Administration’s and the government’s climate-offensive decisions,” said Torkild Torkildsen, CEO of Torghatten Nord. “This also provides significant opportunities for the shipyard and equipment industry to participate in the development of expertise in the use of hydrogen as an energy source.”
The two hydrogen-fueled RoPax ferries will be designed by Norwegian Ship Design. Each vessel will be approximately 394 feet long with a capacity to carry 120 cars and 599 passengers. Norwegian Ship Design says they will operate full-time on hydrogen requiring 5 to 6 t of hydrogen each day. Because the vessels provide an essential commercial service to the residents and local fishing industry, the contract requires that they be able to operate on an alternative fuel, although at least 85 percent of the time they are required to operate on hydrogen. In addition, the contract requires that the hydrogen be produced with low greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the companies, the route the ferries will operate on between Bodø and Lofoten is both the longest ferry connection in Norway and possibly the most challenging ferry crossing. Crossing the Vestfjorden between Bodø on the mainland and three islands in Lofoten involves a close to 60-mile open ocean crossing above the Arctic Circle.
The hydrogen ferries will replace two ferries operating the routes that were built in 2012 and are currently fueled with LNG. The new vessels will provide a 60 percent increase in passenger capacity and 40 percent for cars, but the Norwegian Public Roads Administration estimates they will reduce CO2 emissions by 26,500 tons annually versus the LNG-fueled ferries. The contract also calls for the older vessels to be converted to zero or low emission operations using biofuel, biogas, electricity, or hydrogen. The ferries will be held in reserve during the winter and operate alongside the hydrogen ferries in the summer during the busy tourist season.