Immingham Docks in North East Lincolnshire is the first in the UK to adopt a hydrogen powered truck, the BBC reports. The truck will be deployed to haul shipping containers to and from cargo vessels. The Port of Immingham handles around 55 million tonnes of cargo every year.
The initiative is being funded as part of the government drive to reduce carbon emissions from the maritime industry. Globally, the shipping sector is responsible for 3% of the world’s carbon emissions, which would make it the sixth most polluting country in the world. About 90% of the world’s international trade is conducted by ocean transport.
Maritime Minister Baroness Vere said the initiative showed the UK was “serious about cleaning up the sector”. She added: “Decarbonising the maritime sector goes beyond cutting emissions at sea, and this trial demonstrates that hydrogen will play a significant part in UK’s port operations and shed their dependence on fossil fuels.”
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) reports that the shipping sector currently produces one billion tonnes of CO2 emissions annually, and it has agreed a target to reduce this by half by the year 2050.
Simon Bird, ABP’s Regional Director of the Humber ports said he hoped the trial would show “how forward thinking we are in meeting the need to de-carbonise in the port”.
Hydrogen fuel-cell technology has been trialled widely in an attempt to reduce the reliance on non-renewable and polluting fuel sources. It works by combining hydrogen and oxygen in a fuel cell, which releases an electrical energy to power a vehicle. It only produces water as a by-product, unlike oil-based fuels that release harmful greenhouse gases.
The Association of British Ports have installed a mobile hydrogen fuelling station at Immingham. In order for hydrogen power to be adopted more widely, there needs to be a huge investment in hydrogen fuel production and infrastructure.
The BBC reports that hydrogen fuel has been explored as a green alternative for powering ships. However, this requires significant and costly adaptation of ships and of storage and refuelling facilities at ports worldwide.
The news organisation reports that scientists at the University of Cambridge have applied themselves to this problem, and have suggested that syngas could be used to bridge the gap between fossil fuels and greener alternatives such as hydrogen.
Dr Virgil Andrei, research fellow at the University of Cambridge, explained: “Syngas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, is an important industrial intermediate in the production of conventional fuels like gasoline. If we can produce syngas sustainably, we won’t need fossil resources.”
The technology works by mimicking the natural process of photosynthesis that plants use to convert light energy into chemical energy. The Cambridge team of scientists have developed ultra-thin artificial leaves that harvest sunlight and oxygen from the water. The leaves are designed to float on the surface of water bodies, so they won’t take up land.
While the technology is still in the very early stages, it is hoped that it could eventually be deployed to clean up polluted waterways, and provide a green alternative shipping fuel.
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