the Hylias hydrogen ship

Hydrogen powered ships: a new economic development axis for Brittany6 min de lecture

The last Bretagne Hydrogène Renouvelable meeting of the year took place on Tuesday, December 6 in Saint-Malo. Focused on the themes of port ecosystems and hydrogen powered ships, the day allowed BDI to present, among other things, the results of a strategic study on the structuring of the regional hydrogen ship sector.


Context of the study

Launched in May 2022, this study responds to one of the priorities set by the Brittany Region’s roadmap for the deployment of renewable hydrogen: decarbonizing maritime transport off the coast of Brittany thanks to this energy solution.

BDI is in charge of the implementation and animation of this roadmap and has led the hydrogen ship survey. Alca Torda Applications, an engineering and consulting firm with expertise in hydrogen and fuel cells and in the integration of onboard hydrogen systems, conducted the study.

Other international maritime territories, such as Japan, Korea and Norway, and national territories, such as Normandy and Pays de la Loire, have already positioned themselves on the decarbonization of their maritime fleet via hydrogen. “In this competitive context, the study focuses on the segments that can be captured by the Breton industrial ecosystem,” says Anthony Dobaire, a research manager at BDI, which led the study.


Four lines of thought, three objectives

Presented to an audience of elected officials and Breton actors involved in projects in Brittany, the study had the following objectives

  • to position the territory,
  • evaluate the uses,
  • draw up an inventory of the forces at work.


Four lines of thought were thus crossed and put into perspective:

  • A benchmark of maritime territories positioned on the issue of hydrogen,
  • A survey of potential hydrogen-using vessels (volume, types and sizes),
  • A detailed value chain describing each type of boat, its components and the different propulsion chains that can be considered,
  • Problems and obstacles related to each propulsion mode, as well as their combinations (diesel / fuel cell / combustion / electric…), infrastructures (power supply…), logistics…


Solid foundations to develop the regional hydrogen ship industry

From the perspective of developing the hydrogen ship industry on its own scale, the Brittany Region can rely on a solid foundation. It can rely on an ecosystem that is a forerunner in the field of hydrogen, as evidenced by the many projects on the drawing board, and on forces that have historically been present in the field of shipbuilding. “Brittany has a leadership position on hydrogen ships at the national level.”

Découvrir la carte des projets hydrogène en Bretagne

Moreover, with its 15 ships and 22 ports, making it the second largest public shipowner in France, the Brittany Region is positioned as one of the major players in the maritime transport activity. This status gives it the opportunity to boost the activity of this new hydrogen ship sector and to bring the economic value back to the territory. Even though the first hydrogen powered ships are still being built in other countries.


Short island-continent routes as first uses and training needs

The study reveals that commercial vessels assigned to short links between the islands and the mainland are the most suitable to be equipped with electro-hydrogen engines. Like the Hylias ship, which the Brittany Region will equip to serve the islands of the Gulf of Morbihan. “As well as port vessels, small-scale fishing vessels and those used in the shellfish industry,” says Anthony Dobaire.

Currently, more than 700 vessels in the Breton fleet can receive this technology:

  • 270 shellfish farming vessels,

  • 298 small-scale fishing vessels
  • 97 inshore fishing vessels,
  • 115 offshore fishing vessels,
  • 5 for deep-sea fishing

In terms of infrastructure, Brittany is equipped with good-sized shipyards for the construction of hydrogen powered vessels. However, the industrial transformation will necessarily require training actions to negotiate the shift from mechanical to hydrogen value chain (integration, maintenance, safety…).


At the heart of the transition: the choice and cost of technology

According to the projects (national and international) observed in the study, the most widely installed technology on board the various vessels is the Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC). As for the on-board storage of hydrogen, it is the 350 bar storage systems that have been used the most up to now.

In this priming phase, costs are still very high and represent an investment 3 to 4 times higher than the construction of a ship of the same size for the same service. To this, we must add the production and distribution infrastructure to be put in place with the new electro-hydrogen ship project.

However, if the investment for the hydrogen infrastructure represents an essential entry ticket for the access of the territory to this new low-carbon energy, the reproduction of a ship of equivalent model would represent only 20% of its equivalent with conventional motorization.

The study also indicates the need to maintain a rigorous watch on the evolution of technologies and associated operating and production costs.


Technology bricks and value chains

The study has allowed to identify precisely the Breton actors of the shipbuilding industry able to access to hydrogen technologies and to position them on a specific value chain. Alca Torda and BDI have crossed the “Shipbuilding” and “Hydrogen” databases, with the help of Bretagne Pôle Naval.

This work has led to the identification of two categories of players

those who are already involved in the Hydrogen shipbuilding value chain
those who, thanks to training actions, can evolve.

Find the slide show of the day:


Possible financing for project leaders

BDI has also led a study on the list of grants to which project leaders in the design and construction of hydrogen-powered ships can apply.

This table lists the funding available to project leaders.

The table is evolving. Many grants may be available in the future but are not indicated for the moment.



The winners of the call for projects of the Region unveiled

As a driving force in climate change, Brittany launched at the beginning of the year a call for projects for the “Energy Transitions of the Breton fishing and aquaculture sectors”. During the day, Daniel Cueff, vice-president of the Region of Brittany in charge of the sea and coastline, announced the winners of this call for projects.

The first project selected, “Pilothy”, is led by the company Barillec, on behalf of a consortium composed, among others, of members of the Interprofession of the port of Concarneau. Its objective is to study the feasibility of integrating an H2 fuel cell on board an existing fishing vessel.

The second project is led by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Côtes-d’Armor. ESTEBAM associates a group composed of a shipyard, a company specialized in the integration of electro-hydrogen motorization systems on board ships, an architectural office and the CRC Bretagne Nord. It consists in analyzing the various conditions (technical, regulatory, normative and economic) for the conversion to hydrogen of an existing amphibious shellfish barge. “Brittany is giving itself the means to be a driving force in the energy transition of our fisheries, said Daniel Cueff. It is not a simple purchasing center. The region is really proactive on the subject of decarbonization of maritime transport.”

Find the press release below: