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World first in Flanders: hydrogen engine for ships & trains

Starting from 2022, the Port of Antwerp will feature HydroTug, a tugboat that runs entirely on hydrogen. The local port authority was the first to deploy the innovative green dual-fuel engine developed by two Flanders-based firms: shipping company CMB from Antwerp and engine builder Anglo Belgian Corporation (ABC) from Ghent. Alexander Saverys, general manager of CMB, is thrilled: “This engine emits 85% less CO2 than a diesel engine. The benefits definitely outweigh the costs.”

Hydrotug BeHydro

First of its kind

Three years after CMB started developing and testing a small hydrogen-powered dual-fuel engine in 2017, the Antwerp shipping company is turning its green ambitions up a notch. Under the name BeHydro, a joint venture that CMB set up with Ghent-based engine builder ABC, it is now launching the world’s first hydrogen engine for larger ships, trains and industrial companies. The new engine has a power output of 1 megawatt, even when there is no hydrogen available – enough to supply 3,000 households with green electricity.

The fact that CMB chose to collaborate with ABC for this pivotal project is no surprise. Tim Berckmoes, CEO of ABC, explains: “There’s a lot of talk about developing environmentally friendly solutions, but here, we’re actually doing it. We have been producing engines since 1912, but this revolutionary green engine takes the cake. Our company genuinely believes in hydrogen as the fuel of the future.”

The best is yet to come

Due to the wide range of industrial applications, there’s a lot of potential for the green technology, from ships and trains to industrial companies, hospitals, and data centers. “In Ghent, we can produce up to 100 hydrogen-powered engines per year,” states Saverys. “In theory, any large diesel engine can be replaced by a hydrogen engine, so we are already making plans for the future.”

A hydrogen engine takes up more space than a conventional engine and costs 25 to 35% more, but Saverys is confident that the higher cost won’t be a dealbreaker. “Blue hydrogen, a remnant of the chemical production of plastics and chlorine, among other things, costs only EUR 1.50 per kilo. Taking into account that one kilo of hydrogen provides 3.3 times more energy than the same amount of diesel, it quickly becomes clear that the benefits outweigh the costs.”

Europe's fuel for the future

With its environmentally friendly technology, BeHydro reinforces Europe’s ambition to turn to hydrogen for the greening of the European economy. Saverys: “We prove that the energy transition for large-scale applications is possible today. In six months, we will launch a second version of the hydrogen engine, which runs 100% on hydrogen. We expect European subsidies for hydrogen to become a reality soon.”

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Reported by
Gazet van Antwerpen newspaper
13 October 2020

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