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How much Hydrogen would Britain's busiest port need to fill all of the visiting container ships ?


Erina
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Given that there is a general understanding that large surface vessels, like shipping containers, are likely to benefit from being converted to being Hydrogen powered, over other non-polluting technologies like batteries, what are the practicalities of this ?

On average a shipping container, worth its salt, will look something like this:

Length : 400m

Beam : 60m

Draught : 14m

Gross Tonnage : 210~235

TEU : 20~24k

 

The fuel that powers their diesel engines is either IFO180 / IFO380, of which is trading today (mid-2022) at $506/mt on the World Bunker Prices index (Rotterdam)

I read online that a 10k TEU container ship running at 24 knots would burn over 350mt of fuel per day, which would cost$117,100k (£96,448).

Given that the port of London, one of the UK's busiest, processed some 5,961 shipping container vessels in the year of 2021 (or 16 per day, flat out), and each one costs around £96k to fill up from empty (and they can last around 40 days on a full tank, but admittedly it can take just over one calendar month to arrive from China), how much would it cost to fill it up with Hydrogen ?

Back in March of 2021 BP’s North East coast operations predict that they can produce Hydrogen at the rate of 1GW by 2030, which would produce 260,000 metric tons annually (or 712tn daily).

Given that it would take 350tn to fill just a 10k TEU ship (which is half of a container ship’s capacity, on average) that doesn’t leave much for any other ship, with an average of 16 container ships visiting London’s busiest port daily (5,961 annually) - admittedly, London is not in the North East !

Therefore, to service the busiest port in the UK (either London, or Grimsby & Immingham) it would take some 16GW of energy, just to cover the container vessels for that one day, given that they would be carrying around 20k TEU, if they were all empty.

Is this right ?

Edited by Erina
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8 hours ago, Erina said:

Given that there is a general understanding that large surface vessels, like shipping containers, are likely to benefit from being converted to being Hydrogen powered, over other non-polluting technologies like batteries, what are the practicalities of this ?

On average a shipping container, worth its salt, will look something like this:

Length : 400m

Beam : 60m

Draught : 14m

Gross Tonnage : 210~235

TEU : 20~24k

 

The fuel that powers their diesel engines is either IFO180 / IFO380, of which is trading today (mid-2022) at $506/mt on the World Bunker Prices index (Rotterdam)

I read online that a 10k TEU container ship running at 24 knots would burn over 350mt of fuel per day, which would cost$117,100k (£96,448).

Given that the port of London, one of the UK's busiest, processed some 5,961 shipping container vessels in the year of 2021 (or 16 per day, flat out), and each one costs around £96k to fill up from empty (and they can last around 40 days on a full tank, but admittedly it can take just over one calendar month to arrive from China), how much would it cost to fill it up with Hydrogen ?

Back in March of 2021 BP’s North East coast operations predict that they can produce Hydrogen at the rate of 1GW by 2030, which would produce 260,000 metric tons annually (or 712tn daily).

Given that it would take 350tn to fill just a 10k TEU ship (which is half of a container ship’s capacity, on average) that doesn’t leave much for any other ship, with an average of 16 container ships visiting London’s busiest port daily (5,961 annually) - admittedly, London is not in the North East !

Therefore, to service the busiest port in the UK (either London, or Grimsby & Immingham) it would take some 16GW of energy, just to cover the container vessels for that one day, given that they would be carrying around 20k TEU, if they were all empty.

Is this right ?

I'm not sure what all these numbers tell us. The energy content is the same regardless of the fuel used. There is a certain efficiency limitation for the production of hydrogen, depending on how it is produced. Those numbers together tell us how much energy would be needed to fuel all these ships. The amount of hydrogen that one part of one company currently says it can produce is not really very relevant. So much depends on how much money the energy industry feels it can make out of supplying it and a lot of that will depend on what other (higher intrinsic value) applications there may also be for the fuel. In the case of hydrogen there are potential applications in domestic heating and as truck fuel.  

But in any case, I'm not sure that hydrogen is the right fuel to focus on, at least in the medium term. Hydrogen is currently not the most favoured future option for marine bunker fuel.  Here is an article about the options from Bureau Veritas: https://marine-offshore.bureauveritas.com/insight/future-marine-fuels-pathways-decarbonization

Decarbonisation will be a process, taking decades and most likely involving a number of intermediate steps.  You will see that less carbon-rich hydrocarbons, and/or liquid biofuels, are likely to come into use first. Longer term, hydrogen is one possibility certainly, though not on any scale by 2030, while ammonia may well be preferred to hydrogen, due to the easier storage on board  (you can liquefy it). Though to make the ammonia you presumably need the hydrogen anyway, so eventually a lot of it will no doubt be needed, one way or another. (You can make "blue" hydrogen from natural gas, if you capture and store the CO2 generated as a byproduct.) 

If you are really interested in this subject, there is information available on the internet from organisations such as the IMO and CIMAC (a forum for marine engine designers and builders that I used to attend, when I was still working for Shell).  

 

Edited by exchemist
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What I was trying to do was to present some factual real-world numbers, so that I could confirm the amount of Hydrogen that would need to be produced, and perhaps attempt to compare the end cost to the user, which in turn would determine the feasibility of switching over.

The amount of noxious gasses emitted from Heavy Fuel Oil is not disputed, but how much would it roughly cost to switch to Hydrogen ?

Other port side machinery will obviously be powered by Hydrogen, as well as surrounding public transport links and accommodation, so it was not just for shipping, but my main focus was.

Edited by Erina
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4 minutes ago, Erina said:

What I was trying to do was to present some factual real-world numbers, so that I could confirm the amount of Hydrogen that would need to be produced, and perhaps attempt to compared the end cost to the user, which in turn would determine the feasibility of switching over.

The amount of noxious gasses emitted from Heavy Fuel Oil is not disputed, but how much would it roughly cost to switch to Hydrogen ?

Other port side machinery will obviously be powered by Hydrogen, as well as surrounding public transport links and accommodation, so it was not just for shipping, but my main focus was.

I really don't think you can do that calculation. We do not know what the cost of hydrogen produced on this scale will be. That depends on such variables as the cost of electricity, which is notoriously variable and will change as the economy decarbonises, the efficiency of the technologies for hydrogen production, of which there are at least two: green hydrogen from electrolysis, and blue hydrogen from steam reforming of methane plus CCS, and the demand for hydrogen from the various applications that could potentially use it, some of which I listed in my previous post. So neither manufacturing cost nor supply and demand balance can be readily estimated - though I feel sure people investing in the business, like Shell, will have some models. As for the ships themselves, a lot may depend on whether they would burn hydrogen in a heat engine as today or whether a move to fuel cells proves feasible. None of the likely costs of these changes is yet known. 

 

 

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Well the problem is that such decisions are cost driven.

You raise an interesting point about propulsion through burning hydrogen, or powering battery cells, the former is most likely, due to space constrains from I have read, along with reduced costs.

I am still looking for something concrete, if not a cost, then at least what levels of production are necessary, or infrastructure needed.

Your Bureau Veritas threw up an conundrum for me that I hope you can answer: "While hydrogen has a favorable specific energy (about 3x higher than that of fuel oil) its energy density is 4-8 times lower".. what does that mean exactly ?

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7 minutes ago, Erina said:

Well the problem is that such decisions are cost driven.

You raise an interesting point about propulsion through burning hydrogen, or powering battery cells, the former is most likely, due to space constrains from I have read, along with reduced costs.

I am still looking for something concrete, if not a cost, then at least what levels of production are necessary, or infrastructure needed.

Your Bureau Veritas threw up an conundrum for me that I hope you can answer: "While hydrogen has a favorable specific energy (about 3x higher than that of fuel oil) its energy density is 4-8 times lower".. what does that mean exactly ?

Specific energy is energy per unit mass, whereas energy density is energy per unit volume: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specific_energy

I'm assuming they are comparing RFO with cryogenic liquid hydrogen. 

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Back to the subject matter, presently it seem that there is a 1:4 ratio with aviation fuel like Kerosene, due to the energy per unit volume being so much lower with Hydrogen, even in its liquified form.

So I take it that whatever will be needed will be at least a four fold increase on current numbers ?

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6 minutes ago, Erina said:

Back to the subject matter, presently it seem that there is a 1:4 ratio with aviation fuel like Kerosene, due to the energy per unit volume being so much lower with Hydrogen, even in its liquified form.

So I take it that whatever will be needed will be at least a four fold increase on current numbers ?

Why are you now talking about aviation fuel?

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14 hours ago, Intoscience said:

What is back assward about changing fuels from diesel to hydrogen? 

For all those mega container-ships? 

Quote

The analysis reveals
that much more energy is needed to operate a hydrogen economy than is
consumed in today's energy economy. In fact, depending on the chosen route the
input of electrical energy to make, package, transport, store and transfer hydrogen
may easily double the hydrogen energy delivered to the end user. https://afdc.energy.gov/files/pdfs/hyd_economy_bossel_eliasson.pdf

Yes, it might be better than diesel, eventually, but all it does in the longer term is reduce the particulate and CO2 emissions from shipping all that unnecessary crap around the world in all those giant containers. The unnecessary crap is still going to be manufactured - according to whatever the regulations, or lack thereof, happen to be in the country of origin, by whatever labour practices obtain there, packaged in miles and miles and miles and miles of plastic wrap, and whatever other packaging happens to be deemed marketable by the manufacturers, and taken from places of cheap labour and dirty water to places that used to be more prosperous when its citizens had jobs in manufacturing that no longer exists, but are not buying the unnecaesary crap on credit, which is driving their entire entire nations into a pit of debt, in ships that disrupt migration routes of sea-life and birds and drived whales mad enough to commit suicide.

A nose-frontwards approach might be to make necessary goods and food products close to where they'll be used. 

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3 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

For all those mega container-ships? 

Yes, it might be better than diesel, eventually, but all it does in the longer term is reduce the particulate and CO2 emissions from shipping all that unnecessary crap around the world in all those giant containers. The unnecessary crap is still going to be manufactured - according to whatever the regulations, or lack thereof, happen to be in the country of origin, by whatever labour practices obtain there, packaged in miles and miles and miles and miles of plastic wrap, and whatever other packaging happens to be deemed marketable by the manufacturers, and taken from places of cheap labour and dirty water to places that used to be more prosperous when its citizens had jobs in manufacturing that no longer exists, but are not buying the unnecaesary crap on credit, which is driving their entire entire nations into a pit of debt, in ships that disrupt migration routes of sea-life and birds and drived whales mad enough to commit suicide.

A nose-frontwards approach might be to make necessary goods and food products close to where they'll be used. 

....and, er, here endeth the rant?😁

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I wouldn't want to work on a hydrogen powered ship. It would need very high pressure, to keep the fuel a reasonable volume. Any leak would be very dangerous. In any case, it would involve a lot of infrastructure to make and deliver the fuel.

If there was loads of very cheap hydrogen going to waste, it might make some sort of sense, but I don't see where that's coming from. Maybe you could use the hydrogen to make hvo from waste vegetable sources, if you wanted to waste a fortune. That could be used without changing the engines or infra-structure. 

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4 hours ago, mistermack said:

I wouldn't want to work on a hydrogen powered ship. It would need very high pressure, to keep the fuel a reasonable volume. Any leak would be very dangerous. In any case, it would involve a lot of infrastructure to make and deliver the fuel.

If there was loads of very cheap hydrogen going to waste, it might make some sort of sense, but I don't see where that's coming from. Maybe you could use the hydrogen to make hvo from waste vegetable sources, if you wanted to waste a fortune. That could be used without changing the engines or infra-structure. 

I was thinking as a byproduct of O2 production for submarines. Would be pretty niche use case though.

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On 8/4/2022 at 1:42 AM, Peterkin said:

I have no idea, but if you're actually looking to save the environment, it's a completely back-assward approach

9 hours ago, Peterkin said:

Oh, sure. Just answering the question.

I wasn't criticising your initial response (though I do see it could be interpreted that way). It was a genuine question, since I'm currently involved with a large project at my works where we are looking at changing fuel source from natural gas to a similar alternative. Hydrogen being the leading present option, one I'm personally not all that convinced about. Mainly for the reasons given in this thread so far. 

However there seems to be a lot of talk around "alternative" fuels and especially to replace fossil fuels.

What are the current most realistic alternatives?  

 

Edited by Intoscience
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9 hours ago, mistermack said:

I wouldn't want to work on a hydrogen powered ship. It would need very high pressure, to keep the fuel a reasonable volume. Any leak would be very dangerous. In any case, it would involve a lot of infrastructure to make and deliver the fuel.

If there was loads of very cheap hydrogen going to waste, it might make some sort of sense, but I don't see where that's coming from. Maybe you could use the hydrogen to make hvo from waste vegetable sources, if you wanted to waste a fortune. That could be used without changing the engines or infra-structure. 

I think it would be stored as a cryogenic liquid, much as is done on LNG carriers, but I agree there are hazards, e.g. if there is a total loss of power. This is probably why ammonia is being considered - though even that is pretty nasty if there is a leak.  

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4 hours ago, Intoscience said:

However there seems to be a lot of talk around "alternative" fuels and especially to replace fossil fuels.

There has been talk for 60 years and more. There is more talk now, and there actually are some available options.

Quote

Alternative fuels include gaseous fuels such as hydrogen, natural gas, and propane; alcohols such as ethanol, methanol, and butanol; vegetable and waste-derived oils; and electricity - https://www.epa.gov/renewable-fuel-standard-program/alternative-fuels

Each of those other fuels produces less CO2 emission than fossil fuel, and at the moment hydrogen seems to be the odds-on favourite.  However, each also has disadvantages, some more obvious than others, regarding their source, method of extraction and production, manufacture of components needed to implement, containment, conveyance and handling, commitment by interested parties in formulating and carrying out a plan, as well as economic feasibility.

For example:

Quote

The researchers expect production of hydrogen from surplus renewable electricity will be cost-competitive with natural gas-based hydrogen before 2035.https://www.windpowermonthly.com/article/1578773/green-hydrogen-economically-viable-2035-researchers-claim

...based on a bunch of assumptions for which there is inadequate basis in the sate of the world as we find it right now. That optimistic prediction was cited in a wind-generated energy newsletter in 2019.

Given certain assumed conditions, each of the alternative fuels has some merit. The two biggest problems are the scale - e.g. the sample size in the OP is enormous, and it's only one of 126 major ports - and "givens" - of which there aren't any. That study, only a few short years ago failed to consider a longish global pandemic, major political upheaval in the US, a more than usually insane war and reverberating missile-rattling by insecure world powers, the insecurity of world powers, the devastation of climate change-induced weather phenomena, the economic consequences of all these events...

Quote

While there is growing interest in alternative fuels to reduce energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and reliance on gasoline imports, climate change will impact the production and distribution of non-conventional fuels such as electricity, biofuels, and others. https://eri.iu.edu/erit/implications/alternative-fuels.html

If you're looking to retool a single fleet of vehicles or factory, alternate energy sources should be considered according to your specific needs, capabilities and location, taking into account all the variables you are aware of (and mindful that it's those notorious unknown unknowns that cause most failure).

But as a means of saving the world from extinction, a change of fuels at this stage is a futile gesture.    

Edited by Peterkin
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All this talk of hydrogen production relies on there being a huge surplus of renewable power some time in the future. If they use it to make hydrogen, they are likely to use that at night, or when the wind doesn't blow, for electrical generation. I don't think that it's likely there will be a big surplus, over and above that. 

There would need to be a sure-fire market for hydrogen, at a high price, before people would invest in renewable hardware to produce it. You could create that market, by banning marine diesel, but I can't see that happening. 

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10 minutes ago, mistermack said:

All this talk of hydrogen production relies on there being a huge surplus of renewable power some time in the future. If they use it to make hydrogen, they are likely to use that at night, or when the wind doesn't blow, for electrical generation. I don't think that it's likely there will be a big surplus, over and above that. 

There would need to be a sure-fire market for hydrogen, at a high price, before people would invest in renewable hardware to produce it. You could create that market, by banning marine diesel, but I can't see that happening. 

There could easily be a huge market for it. Hydrogen would be close to a drop-in replacement for methane in domestic heating (you can put up to 25% into the supply today without even changing burners). Also I believe hydrogen is thought to be a good candidate for heavy duty truck transport, for which batteries would be very large and heavy. We already have hydrogen buses in some places.

It needs something to kick-start it though - probably government. 

I don't think, myself, that trying to totally decarbonise shipping is a top priority. Switch to lower carbon liquid fuels in the medium term while you go for other sectors with more impact on total emissions.

 

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The economics don't seem to be there, even with today's high gas prices. Otherwise, as you point out, they could be putting hydrogen in with domestic gas supplies. If it doesn't make economic sense now, it's going to be way out of order when gas prices normalise. 

In some countries, like Australia, you have vast empty areas suitable for solar generation, and probably wind too. If the process of producing hydrogen was economically viable, there would be a huge industry there for the taking. Investment would be piling in. 

But the current high oil and gas prices are likely to fall substantially. The futures markets are well below current prices. Probably because much of the world is heading into recession, and demand is forecast to fall. 

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