Air Liquide: “Hydrogen Is One of the Best and Most Sustainable Solutions for Longer and Heavier Barge Transports”

By September 27, 2023 5   min read  (929 words)

September 27, 2023 |

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RH2INE network facilitates emission-free inland navigation

Jeannette Baljeu is a Dutch politician from the VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy). She is a member of the Provincial Executive of South Holland and co-chairs the province’s day-to-day administration. Her portfolio includes the transition of the port and industry. And she co-founded the RH2INE network.

The province of South Holland is known for its ambitious decarbonisation roadmap. “Apart from the measures imposed on us nationally, we’re also looking at other things we can do,” Jeannette Baljeu clarifies. “For example, we’re aiming to reduce CO2 emissions from the Rotterdam port area as much as possible.”

By extension, inland navigation is also receiving the necessary attention. “The RH2INE (Rhine Hydrogen Integration Network of Excellence) network was founded on the idea of using hydrogen to decarbonise inland navigation along European transport routes. And with the ZES (Zero Emission Shipping) project, we’re looking at whether we can also use battery electric shipping for shorter distances.”


“If you want to decarbonise inland navigation in our area, you run into the challenge that most inland vessels are owned by families or small-scale companies. Usually, these companies don’t own more than one vessel. So it’s not easy to decarbonise in an organised way and to ask Europe for support. RH2INE brings all these companies together, large or small, and creates synergies where infrastructure and renewable energy intersect, within the sector and with other parties in the chain.”

The primary goal of the RH2INE network is to help the inland shipping industry make the transition to zero-emission shipping, which will become part of a completely new hydrogen economy. “At first, it was about traffic on the Rhine between Rotterdam and North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. But Amsterdam, Antwerp and Viadonau (in Austria) are now also linking up. And we’re quite happy about that, because the bigger and stronger the network, the more clout we have.”

“In the long term, it’s necessary to build a sound business case for emission-free inland navigation, but subsidies from Europe are needed to close the financial gap in the short term too. Europe is already providing support for studies, innovation, and initial implementation projects, but support so that we can upscale that is still some way off. But now that Amsterdam and Belgium are also linking up and there’s growing interest from other European countries, we think we can get it done in the relatively short term.”

Everyone on board

“We got all the parties that we need around the table to achieve success with the RH2INE network: ports, governments, energy companies, inland waterway operators, and shippers. Several ports have already indicated their intention to play a substantial role in hydrogen production, its import, and transit. And good cooperation with energy suppliers is crucial, so that we’ve got enough refuelling points for hydrogen ships.”

“The Dutch government and Europe of course also play a critical role in this story, not just for subsidies, but also for regulation and helping to establish a new hydrogen economy, of which transport applications are an important part. And finally, we also have the shippers on board, although we’re still working on a final agreement around finances, because zero-emission transport does involve extra costs.”

“On 25 May 2023, Rotterdam hosted the baptism of Hydrogen Barge 1, the first hydrogen-powered ship — Air Liquide supplies hydrogen for it in special hydrogen containers. It’s operated by Future Proof Shipping — FPS — and more ships are coming soon.”

Hydrogen versus electricity

“Right now, electric transport is more cost-effective for small distances, limited tonnages, and calmer waters — without countercurrents. But, on the other hand, our power grids are already reaching their limits in several places.”

“Hydrogen requires new regulations and adapted infrastructure, but it’s one of the best and most sustainable solutions for longer and heavier ship transports. A ship equipped with removable 40-foot hydrogen tanks can, depending on its weight and sailing speed, cover the entire distance from Rotterdam to Duisburg in one go with just two of these tanks, without having to switch hydrogen tanks en route. If you fill the same 40-foot containers with electric batteries, you have to change them after just two or two-and-a-half hours of sailing.”

Ready for launch

“Cooperation between the various stakeholders in the RH2INE network is going very well. Through the network, the different parties have got to know each other, all along the value chain and across national borders. Together, we’re building consortia and realising new projects to get the hydrogen economy up and running and scaling up.”

“And naturally, we’re delighted to have a partner like Air Liquide. They play a vital role in the energy transition in lots of ways. They have years of experience in the hydrogen business and they’re a resourceful company that can develop and roll out the necessary technologies and solutions around hydrogen in both the short and longer term.”

“We’ve already demonstrated that the RH2INE framework is rock-solid and that we can get all the relevant parties around the table in a constructive manner. We want to be demonstrating soon that we can also develop our plans successfully. We’re right in the middle of the hydrogen transition here in Rotterdam. This is really one of the places where it’s all happening. And that’s where RH2INE will soon have to play a major role.”


SOURCE: Air Liquide

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