Low carbon launches ferrying technicians on service trips to offshore wind-spinners will be put through their paces in the North Sea from next week, in a six-month trial run by turbine builders Vestas and fleet owner Windcat Workboats.

The Belgian-owned operator of crew transfer vessels has taken delivery of the world’s first launch co-powered by hydrogen, as an alternative to marine gas oil.

The 44 turbines of the 370MW Norther Wind farm, 23 kilometres miles off Zeebrugge, are the focus of the summer and winter trial.

The Danish engineer of towers and blades wants its own manufacturing and installation divisions to be carbon neutral before this decade ends.  Vestas is refusing to use workarounds in financial engineering such as offsetting.

Carbon emissions arising from offshore operations currently account for one third of Vestas’ scope 1&2 emissions   The new vessel could save 158 tonnes a year, trimming 37 percent of carbon emissions associated with traditional ships.

The coming trial will offer the engineers the chance to decide the most scalable approaches to employing hydrogen.  Collecting insights into the pros and cons of hydrogen-powered voyages in daily operations will be its goals.

Grey hydrogen, also known as blue hydrogen and steam-reformed from climate-toxic methane, will the feedstock for a vessel yet to be decided, but possibly including the 28 metre Wildcat Mark 101, pictured.

Green hydrogen, electrolysed from water with zero-carbon electricity, is ruled out due to limited availability.

The vessel can switch between conventional and gas-based propulsion.  H2’s green – and cleaner – variant could be incorporated once its supplies become more abundant & cheaper.

“Hard to abate sectors such as shipping will be the final frontier in our global journey towards decarbonisation”, Vestas’ service VP Christian Venderby observed.

“Hydrogen is a crucial technology to advance this journey, which is why Vestas is eager to test its potential to reduce emissions from our service operations”.

For the wind farm, its executive manager Christophe De Schryver added; “The operation of a crew transfer vessel in the North Sea running on hydrogen will create the necessary demand for investments in hydrogen supply.

“Norther is honoured that Vestas is bootstrapping this value chain by operating this CTV at Norther’s offshore wind farm,” he added.


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