Technology is no longer a limiting factor in decarbonizing heavy-duty transport and marine applications and now is the time to deliver, concluded key industry players at the biggest event dedicated to hydrogen in Europe - the European Hydrogen Week - which took place in Brussels, Belgium from Nov. 20-24, 2023.
Organized by the European Commission, the Clean Hydrogen Partnership and Hydrogen Europe, the event's second annual edition attracted more than 6,000 attendees from the hydrogen value chain. In addition, over 200 speakers contributed to discussions across the 27 sessions between the High-Level Policy Conference and B2B forum. This included a session on “Hydrogen for the Maritime Sector”, where Ballard Power Systems’ Public Affairs Manager Florian Chapalain took to the stage together with other industry experts.
With new International Maritime Organization (IMO) decarbonization objectives adopted, and the extension of carbon pricing to shipping in the EU, the panel discussion revolved around the next steps for how and when clean, zero-emission ships can hit the water. All panellists agreed that technology is no longer the limiting factor in this segment, with hydrogen, methanol, and ammonia-powered vessels all close to market readiness and suited for different use cases.
Chapalain highlighted the Type Approval of Ballard's FCwave™ 200kW fuel cell engine for marine applications as evidence of technology maturity; while DFDS' representative in the session - Mads Bentzen Billesø, Head of Innovation - supported this point by mentioning the positive results of a Ballard-led feasibility study on a 15MW hydrogen fuel cell system for ferries.
Accelerating the hydrogen economy
The conference in general encouraged great focus on strengthening the market and a willingness to increase both the scale and speed of the hydrogen economy. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen used the event to highlight the positive progress that has been made since the launch of the European Green Deal four years ago, calling it “the dawn of the hydrogen era”. She also announced the launch of the first Hydrogen Bank Auction, backed by €800m ($869m) in European funding. In Spring 2024, the second round of auctions will be launched, reaching a total value of €3bn ($3.26bn).
Conversation throughout the week stressed the imperative nature for the EU to build a vibrant hydrogen economy that can generate growth through new net-zero technologies, manufacturing and innovation across Europe. Concerns were voiced around competitiveness raised by B2B industries highlighting the threat of international competitors luring companies away into alternative global markets. Emphasis was therefore placed on the necessity of scaling up manufacturing capacity, launching support schemes for green hydrogen production and deploying hydrogen transport infrastructures to retain talent, investment and ensure Europe continues to lead the zero-emission transition.
Another resounding message from the event focused on the need to progress the collaboration between hydrogen research and industry to enable the hydrogen ecosystem to address challenges such as the scale, speed and commercialization of new technologies. Collaboration is vital in the drive to scale up hydrogen production, hydrogen usage, reducing costs and ensure a smooth transition.