The world’s first vessel, Neo Orbis, will be powered by a solid form of hydrogen — said to be much easier and safer to store than liquid or compressed forms of H2 — and is expected to get into operational trials at the Port of Amsterdam in June 2023.
The vessel — designed to sail in Amsterdam’s canals and the channel between the North Sea and the city — will be running on hydrogen produced from a salt named sodium borohydride (NaBH4).
This solid chemical is mixed with pure water and a stabilizer to produce a liquid fuel (non-combustible) with the dissolved form of NaBH4. It then reacts with a catalyst to produce hydrogen used to operate a fuel cell.
The Neo Orbis will be built by Next Generation Shipyards, a Dutch shipbuilder. It reportedly won a tender from the Port of Amsterdam and an H2Ships assignment co-funded by the EU.
The advantage of the hydrogen carrier is its high-energy density. It can be bunkered safely in several places. The vessel will pave the way for scaling up this technology for short-sea and inland shipping.
Per Galaxy FCT, a Malaysian firm that works on NaBH4 solutions, the stable solid can be stored at ambient pressures and temperatures and release 126kg of hydrogen per cubic meter — compared to 71kgH2/m3 for liquid hydrogen that needs to be stored below minus 253°C or 42kgH2/m3 for compressed hydrogen.
A long-term goal of the project is to form a closed-loop system wherein heat produced by the catalytic process can warm the Neo Orbis’ interior. At the same time, the water gets recycled, and the residual material or sodium metaborate (NaBO2) is transformed into new sodium borohydride fuel when in contact with water and any reducing agent like magnesium.
References: Recharge, Energy Central
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