Ivan Østvik: ‘Hydrogen will become a low-cost energy source and zero-emission fuel’

Ivan Østvik, Project Manager, Norled AS, is a naval architect by profession who’s worked with ship design, marine technology, and offshore wind for more than 25 years. Since 2015, he has been developing “green” ship projects in Norway, focusing on implementing sustainable and reliable zero-emission energy technologies. He is an internationally recognized expert in maritime zero-emission solutions and has been instrumental in constructing the world’s first liquid hydrogen-powered ship.

What prompted Norled to develop liquid hydrogen-powered ferries?

We wanted to use liquid hydrogen because of its scalability, low-pressure storage, and the fact it can be a zero-emissions fuel. Liquid hydrogen provides more energy onboard in the same space and offers faster bunkering time when compared to compressed hydrogen or rechargeable batteries.

An advantage of the fuel cell solution is that we enhance endurance. By loading hydrogen onboard in sufficient quantities, we can operate on longer routes, sail faster, or operate larger ships with higher power requirements. With a battery solution, you need to charge every time you're in a port. So, if something is wrong with the charging station or for some reason you fail to get to it, you risk not being able to sail until the ferry has been charged, which can lead to delays and/or that you need to switch to using your back-up system running on diesel.

Our Hydra ferry will first enter service this summer using batteries for propulsion. The hydrogen system will be installed on the vessel during the winter low season, meaning the vessel will be in operation using liquid hydrogen and fuel cells next spring. Hydra is being built to carry 80 cars and almost 300 passengers between Hjelmeland, Nesvik, and Skipavik in Norway.

Ivan Østvik, Norled A/S

What is your role with this hydrogen-fuelled ferry?

I was part of the tendering team and the technology development from day one with colleagues from Norled. So, I've been part of the team designing the ferry, as well as the hydrogen system since the start. And now I’m responsible for building the ferry at Norled, as well as getting the hydrogen system aboard the ferry approved where we are utilising the alternative risk-based design approach in order to ensure a safe operation of the ferry.

What are some of the challenges involved in deploying fuel cell technology at scale?

Well, as I said, one of the main issues is getting the hydrogen system approved. Fuel cell technologies using hydrogen or the liquid hydrogen storage system have never been used on a ship at this scale before. So, one of the main challenges is that there is really no regulatory framework to use as a reference. We need to prove that using the fuel cells running on hydrogen will be just as safe as a diesel driven ferry. We need to do a lot of first principal analysis of everything related to our work with Linde for the storage system and with Ballard for the fuel cells.

How will this project help Norled to reach its vision of running zero-emission vehicles by 2030?

That it’s a success! If we have a successful first project we'll be well on our way to achieving that vision. One of the main issues we face is the lack of hydrogen production in Norway. But we’re very hopeful that there will be distributed, affordable hydrogen production along the Norwegian coast towards 2030 close to where our car ferries and high-speed passenger vessels are operating.

Norled Hydra

Why do you believe hydrogen is a good zero-emission solution for the marine industry?

Hydrogen is basically the only option for us to advance from battery-driven ships. Battery driven ships have a limited voyage duration. Hydrogen is seen as a range extender. And hydrogen is the only zero emission fuel that will allow us to meet emissions targets. Hydrogen-powered ships will offer zero emissions, silent voyages, and in the long run, reduced maintenance as there are fewer moving parts.

How can hydrogen help decarbonize the broader transport industry?

Hydrogen is flexible. It can come from electrolysis, using renewable power, or it can come from natural gas with carbon capture. Hydrogen can come in the form of compressed or liquid hydrogen or stored as ammonia or other organic compounds.

I’d say hydrogen-powered vessels have a good chance of eliminating diesel-driven ferries and LNG-driven ferries before 2030. And the wider transportation industry will also see huge changes on the back of this. Obviously, we need zero-emission hydrogen production to be scaled up massively. But renewables are getting cheaper all the time. Hydrogen will be a low-cost energy source and a zero-emission fuel that will benefit society as a whole.


If you had one hydrogen-related message for the general public, what would it be?

From Norled's side I would say that we are working to prove that hydrogen ships will be safe to operate as well as technically and operationally viable to use. These aspects will be shown for the first ferry, Hydra, that we are building and soon to be in operation. That's our key message.

Back to start-page of 'Hydrogen: a potential game-changer' deep-dive.