Friday, January 13, 2017

New Agreement Will See Bulk Carriage by Merchant Ship of Liquid Hydrogen

Newly Designed Vessels Aim to Carry Formerly Proscribed Gas
Shipping News Feature
AUSTRALIA – JAPAN – The two countries have signed a memorandum which will allow liquid hydrogen to be safely shipped in bulk for the first time. Ship containment systems are being developed in Japan that will be capable of safely transporting liquid hydrogen in bulk from Australia to Japan as part of a pilot project scheduled to commence in 2020. Merchant ships are now powered by, and carry in bulk, other gases such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) but hydrogen, with its calamitous history, has remained a no-no.

Bulk gas cargoes are carried under the International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Liquefied Gases in Bulk (IGC Code) the mandatory code under the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention. The IGC code does not currently allow for the transportation of liquid hydrogen, though cargoes not covered by the code can be carried if there is an agreement between relevant nations, the flag State of the ship, the ports of loading, and unloading, and changes developed to adapt the code and referred to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for approval.

Australia worked with Japan to develop interim carriage requirements for the transportation of liquid hydrogen in bulk from Australia to Japan. These were agreed to at the IMO Maritime Safety Committee in November 2016. These interim carriage requirements specify the construction standards of containment vessels for liquid hydrogen carriers, and mitigate the safety risks associated with transporting the liquid hydrogen via sea. This is a critical milestone in the Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain Project and will allow the pilot project to proceed in 2020.

The newly agreed memorandum is a key element in this process, and an important step forward for Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI), which is building the pilot project’s liquid hydrogen carrier. Kawasaki obtained approval in principle from Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (ClassNK) for the cargo containment system in 2013. The company is currently developing a pioneering test vessel for the marine transportation of liquefied hydrogen. The vessel will have a cargo capacity of 2,500m3, equivalent to that of coastal trading LNG vessels.

Liquefied hydrogen evaporates at a rate 10 times greater than LNG. To accommodate this, Kawasaki's test vessel will employ a cargo containment system of a double shell structure for vacuum insulation, offering support that demonstrates excellent insulation performance and safety.

This pilot project between Australia and Japan will inform future amendments to the IGC Code which it is hoped will then allow liquid hydrogen to be carried in bulk under the code without any special agreements.

Photo: An artists impression of the new Kawasaki built hydrogen carrier.