A research project to develop a design for a near-zero-emission ship integrating several decarbonising technologies is about to get underway.

With €10m ($12.1m) from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 scheme, technologies including a hydrogen-fuelled engine and wind propulsion will be tested on ships and in laboratories, and assessed alongside batteries, fuel cells, heat recovery, air lubrication and anti-fouling systems.

The way vessels are designed and operated will also feature in the three-year project starting on 1 June.

Wind propulsion results will come from the trials on a Cargill-chartered kamsarmax bulker that will be fitted with a WindWings sail developed by BAR Technologies.

A full-scale prototype hydrogen-fuelled engine developed by Wartsila will be tested in a combustion laboratory at the University of Vaasa in Finland before being trialled at sea on board a Meraviglia-class MSC Cruises ship.

An integrated future-proof vessel design is to be developed by naval architect Deltamarin.

Other participants in the project, co-ordinated by the university, will include Lloyd’s Register, Hasytec Electronics, Silverstream Technologies and Climeon, as well as the World Maritime University.

It is hoped the combination of technologies will be able to cut 99% of greenhouse gas emissions, achieve energy savings of up to 50% and reduce black carbon emissions by more than 95%.

“There is no silver bullet to meeting the challenge of combating climate change. You need to exploit a number of parallel paths, and that’s exactly what we are doing together with our partners here,” says Jonas Akerman, director of research & technology development at Wartsila.

The hydrogen-fuelled engine will be trialled at sea on board a Meraviglia-class MSC Cruises ship. Pictured: the 171,598-gt, 5,642-berth MSC Meraviglia (built 2017) arrives in New York Photo: MSC Cruises

The project has been named CHEK, which stands for the tongue-twisting deCarbonizing sHipping by Enabling Key technology symbiosis on real vessel concepts.

Results from the lab and test vessels with the new design method are also expected to be applied to tankers, containerships and ferries.

As well as the hydrogen engine, Wartsila will focus on gate rudder development, power system optimisation and system integration. Hull air lubrication and a novel rudder system will also be developed.

CHEK project coordinator Suvi Karirinne, director of the university’s Vaasa Energy Business Innovation Centre (Vebic), tells TW+ the project aims to fulfil the promise that hydrogen has offered for clean combustion since the 1960s.

“Now, as we think about this energy transition and how technologies are evolving, it is getting closer and closer to [being] able to shift to a hydrogen economy and using hydrogen as a fuel,” Karirinne says.

Ammonia was discounted as the fuel of choice because of its intersection with food production, where it is widely used in fertiliser.

Vebic, which is the university’s multidisciplinary research and innovation platform, strives to meet the global needs of energy production, business and sustainable social development using laboratories for testing internal-combustion engine fuels as well as future electrical grids.

It will begin by testing different levels of hydrogen that can be burned in the laboratory engine tests.

“All the development needed to be done will not be completed in the next three years. There will be lots of research needing to be done after that, but I hope this opens the way to new knowledge to improve and go further,” Karirinne says.