Neo Orbis, the first electric ship powered by solid hydrogen

Last March, the Port of Amsterdam launched a public tender for the construction of a new electric ship that would lay the foundations for a new mobility technology. was the call Neo Orbis. In recent days, the construction contract for a first demonstration ship has already been awarded as part of the multi-year European program H2Ships. According to the roadmap of the company Next Generation Shipyards, the one in charge of its construction, they hope to have the first unit completed during the first half of next 2023.

The tasks to which this first prototype of tests will be subjected will be in a totally real environment, since it will be dedicated to the transport of passengers, tourist excursions and, to a lesser extent, the transport of objects or merchandise. Its set-up will be adapted to carry out operations both in the canals of the city of Amsterdam and in the port area between this capital and the town of Ijmuiden; Both towns are very close and the maritime traffic between the two is quite remarkable.

However, the highlight of this electric boat 20 meters long is that it will be the first in the world to move thanks to the propulsion generated by solid hydrogen. This fuel is produced from mixture of sodium borohydride powder, a stabilizer and ultra-purified waterwhich results in a non-combustible liquid fuel.

The key to this component is that the dissolved sodium borohydride reacts as a catalyst, producing hydrogen, while the spent fuel is converted back to sodium borohydride. This assumes that the project concludes by creating a closed-loop system in which waste material is converted back into usable material.

They hope to start testing in a real environment in June 2023

The aforementioned closed-loop system goes a step further and the heat extracted from the operation of said process is applied to heat the interior of a container and recycle the water used. Additionally, the ship will be equipped with two 25 kWh individual capacity batterieswhich will provide the necessary electrical energy while the system monitors the available hydrogen concentration.

In addition to everything mentioned, the solid hydrogen system of the Neo Orbis is presented as one of the safest, since material is stored as sodium borohydride, a very stable materialwhich has a much higher ignition point than hydrogen in gaseous form or even the conventional diesel used until now in ships.

The Port of Amsterdam has a total decarbonisation plan for the year 2050, something to which they hope this advanced ship will contribute in a notable way. They hope that it will serve as support for the adoption of hydrogen as a fuel for ships dedicated to inland navigation, short distance, dredging or patrol boats, among others.

The plan established by H2Ships involves the creation of two pilot projects, the first of which is the Neo Orbis electric boat, while the second is the creation of a hydrogen filling station located in an important port in Belgium, which will demonstrate its capabilities with a new ship dedicated to maintenance work on offshore wind farms. Once the development plans have been finalized, the company expects to carry out a new pilot test on the river Seine, in Parisas well as to develop a new, more complete model for its adoption in northwestern Europe.

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