The offshore supply vessel industry faces significant challenges to meet the decarbonization goals of energy company clients. Vessel operators must find ways to reduce carbon emissions while also maintaining the efficiency and capacities of their vessels. Hydrogen has long been seen as a “fuel of the future” that could yield the emissions reductions needed to achieve the lofty net zero carbon goals of the super major energy companies. However, hydrogen presents some challenges of its own.
Hydrogen is attractive as a marine fuel because it can be green and can be more efficient than conventional diesel fuels. Additionally, hydrogen fuel cells require less maintenance both in frequency and cost. Broad adoption in the industry has been limited due to several issues, including the energy density (or lack thereof) in comparison to diesel. Hydrogen is not widely available in ports making bunkering challenging and expensive and the cost of transporting and storing hydrogen is very high relative to diesel.
To overcome these challenges, solutions are being developed by various companies to generate hydrogen onboard vessels by breaking down other compounds that result in the fuel’s release—notably, ammonia and methanol. These onboard solutions allow for greater energy density and are much easier to transport and store. The technologies needed to convert ammonia to hydrogen or methanol to hydrogen for the maritime industry are under development. I suspect that the next time there are new OSVs built for the US GOM, one of these fuel alternatives will be strongly considered and very likely implemented. Though the costs for both solutions will be higher than that of diesel, the need to reduce carbon emissions offsets those added costs.