A hydrogen fuel cell generates electricity by utilising the chemical energy contained in hydrogen. It is a clean energy source, with the only products and by-products being electricity, heat, and water. Fuel cells have a wide range of applications, ranging from transportation to backup power in an emergency. They can power systems as large as a power plant or as small as laptops.

Compared to traditional combustion-based technologies, fuel cells offer several advantages, including higher efficiencies and lower emissions. Because hydrogen fuel cells only emit water, they do not contribute to releasing carbon dioxide or other pollutants into the atmosphere. Fuel cells are also quieter than combustion technologies when in operation because they have fewer moving parts than combustion technologies.

Considering the abundant hydrogen supply in the universe, hydrogen fuel cells are an environmentally friendly energy source. These fuels are also a clean source of energy production. However, there are still some reservations about fossil fuels for hydrogen extraction and the potential carbon footprint associated with hydrogen transportation. On the other hand, hydrogen fuel cell technology has the potential to be a completely green and renewable source of energy, with the only by-products being heat and water. Furthermore, unlike batteries, fuel cells do not deplete or require recharging, so they can be used indefinitely if there is a constant supply of fuel and oxygen.

Upsides of hydrogen as a shipping fuel

There is already a global hydrogen market in place. Every year, approximately 70 million metric tonnes (Mt) of hydrogen is produced for industrial use worldwide, with approximately 6.7 Mt being produced in India. In addition, the hydrogen market is expected to grow as private companies and governments pursue projects to increase production capacity in anticipation of rising demand for clean energy, according to industry analysts. Indian officials hope to achieve their target of 5 million tonnes of green hydrogen by 2030 and the development of renewable energy capacity.

Hydrogen can be stored in large quantities for extended periods. This is beneficial to the shipping industry, as well as to transportation in general, as well as to the industrial and energy industries.

Fuel cell technology is currently available and can be retrofitted into most ships. When it comes to powering ships, hydrogen must be loaded into dual cells. The energy contained within the hydrogen is converted into electricity and heat energy, which is then used to power the ship's propulsion mechanism. Unlike electrolysis, this process can provide a continuous supply of energy as long as the cell is provided with fuel, which is an advantage over batteries, which must be recharged. It has been demonstrated that fuel cells can operate at over 60 per cent efficiency, and it is possible to operate at over 80 per cent efficiency under certain conditions. Fuel cells are quiet, have no moving parts, and can be scaled up to accommodate larger ships because individual cells can be stacked. Today, most ships on the water can be retrofitted with fuel cells.

The use of blue and green hydrogen can help the shipping industry reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by a significant percentage. Furthermore, hydrogen fuel cells are relatively quiet, reducing noise pollution. They only emit water vapour and oxygen as by-products, virtually eliminating the release of air pollutants during fuel combustion.

Government efforts to promote green shipping

The Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways will work with Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) to design and build India's first indigenous hydrogen-fueled electric vessels, which will serve as a springboard for the country's efforts to become a leader in green shipping.

The Fuel Cell Electric Vessel (FCEV), a hydrogen fuel cell vessel based on Low-Temperature Proton Exchange Membrane Technology (LT-PEM), costs approximately INR 17.50 crore. Central government funding is nearly 75 per cent of the total cost.
The development of these vessels is considered a launchpad for the country to tap the vast opportunities in the coastal and inland-vessels segment, both nationally and internationally. 

With the completion of this project, India will be one step closer to meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi's goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2070. It will also be one step closer to complying with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) standards, which call for a reduction in the carbon intensity of international shipping of at least 40 per cent by 2030, and progressively increasing to 70 per cent by 2050.

This is authored by Bhakti Jain.

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