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Hydrogen-producing ship will use wind

A former coastal tanker is being adapted in Bremerhaven for a new role as a wind plant-fitted, hydrogen production ship. The innovative project could provide the template for a fleet of such vessels, financed through the German investment fund system.

Following the anticipated completion of the conversion scheme by the end of 2004, the 66 m Hydrogen Challenger will be put into service in the German Bight. It will lie off the wind-scoured Niedersachsen coast or in the vicinity of the island of Helgol, and produce hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis, and then transport the gaseous cargo to industrial buyers on the mainland.

The principle behind the Hydrogen Challenger is the flexibility of positioning offered by a mobile production platform compared with stationary plant, in regard to reliability of wind energy availability and strength. An environmental plus factor for the marine initiative is its concept of tapping the wind, rather than hydrocarbon fuels, to create the energy for the process of electrolysis.

Previously engaged in the coastal products distributive trade as the Bernd, and built by Bayerische Schiffbau in 1967 at Erlenbach, on the river Main, Hydrogen Challenger has been fitted with two deck-mounted, vertical-axis wind rotors and integrated generators. The plant will generate the requisite electricity for the separation of water into hydrogen and oxygen by electrolysis.

The gases will be fed into the vessel's pressurised tanks, offering a total storage and transportation capacity of 1,194 cu m. Once the cargo section has been filled, or the requisite contract volume has been attained, the tanker will sail to a local port or discharge terminal to make the deliveries.

Scientific support for the overall project concept has been provided by the University of Bremerhaven. Hydrogen Challenger's emergence should be viewed against the backcloth of projections of growing demand for industrial hydrogen in Europe. Among the initial targets for the scheme's backers are customers in the food processing and chemical industries. An additional possibility is the direct conversion of the pure hydrogen and oxygen into electrical energy.

It is anticipated that further vessels will be procured for reconstruction and re-equipping if Hydrogen Challenger proves economically viable. The ship's operator is a company of the same name, based in Bremerhaven, and the contacts are Carsten Michels and Hedda Flemke.

Among the firms involved in the Hydrogen Challenger conversion project are the repair yard of Heise Schiffsreparatur ' Industrie Service, at Bremerhaven, engine maker Volvo Penta, and specialist equipment firms AccaGen, Alpha-Tec, bg-Engineering (braun ' goerke), Ropatec, and Westfalen, along with classification society Bureau Veritas.

Established in 1987, Heise Schiffsreparatur carries out maintenance for industrial plants, including nuclear power stations, and the marine market from its premises on the site of the former Sieghold Werft in Bremerhaven's Fischereihafen.

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