In principle, there is nothing standing in the way of ships being supplied with liquid hydrogen today. According to Adrian Shakib, Tendering Manager at MAN Energy Solutions, ‘the technology is already there’, eliminating the need to wait for extensive bunkering facilities.

‘Truck to ship bunkering is already done for LNG today, where a truck carrying the LNG goes right up to the ship in port,’ says Shakib. ‘Then it is connected by a hose to a small bunkering station on board the vessel. The bunkering station is to ensure a safe bunkering operation.’

Shakib explains that when it comes to liquid hydrogen, ‘even though the liquid is much colder (liquefied hydrogen has a temperature of -253° Celsius, whereas LNG has a temperature of -160°C, Ed.) and more explosive than LNG, the safety philosophy is the same.’ This means hydrogen can benefit from the measures that are already in place for bunkering LNG.

Adrian Shakib < 

Bunkering by truck

So how does bunkering liquid hydrogen by truck work? ‘Liquid hydrogen being carried by trucks is nothing new. They have been doing so for over fifty years in fact,’ stresses Shakib. ‘So liquid hydrogen on the land side has been there for a long time and the trucks carrying the liquid hydrogen are in fact a well proven technology.’

According to Shakib they can then be connected to the bunkering station on the vessel by a ‘special vacuum isolated hose’. ‘These hoses are a well-proven technology as well. If something unforeseen happens, the hydrogen supply is stopped immediately and valves will shut off on both sides. The remaining LH2 inside the hose will then be safely vented.’

Concerns from port authorities

So far, there are few hurdles, but there may be other concerns from port authorities, claims Shakib, as they are not familiar with hydrogen and perhaps would like more measures in place. ‘And of course you don’t have the regulation in place as you ought to have. So maybe this is causing them to wait. But bunkering of liquid hydrogen in this way is completely possible and the technology is there. So a facility is not a must. However, bunkering facilities could be needed for easier and faster bunkering depending on the LH2 bunkering amount and bunkering rate.’