Clean Hydrogen – cooling the marine industry’s ‘zero emissions silver bullet’

Hydrogen fuel cells have enormous potential as a ‘zero emissions’ fuel for the marine industry, but correct system cooling is vitally important. Thankfully, Bowman has the solution!

The marine industry is ramping up towards a net carbon future and internationally has set ambitious targets, including reducing current CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030 and 70% by 2050.

Ambitious targets indeed, and the level of ‘green fuel’ development suggests they’re being taken seriously by the marine industry.

One energy solution gaining momentum is ‘clean hydrogen fuel cells’, which have been identified as a vital fuel to achieve the decarbonisation of marine transport.

Whilst battery-powered electric propulsion is extremely popular, for many marine applications it’s just not feasible – either due to range limitations, or the size of vessel. And this is where clean hydrogen fuel cells could be a game changer.

Clean hydrogen isn’t new, of course. It’s been used in industry for decades and is safe to produce, store and transport.

It’s also the most readily available element on earth and, as the only renewable fuel that’s completely free from CO2, it could be the ultimate clean fuel.

In fact, many industry observers are predicting an 800% rise in demand for clean hydrogen over the next 20 years!

So, is it really the marine industry’s ‘zero emission silver bullet’? There are many, who think it could be and here’s why:

Schematic of Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Fuel cells operate similar to batteries, creating an electrochemical reaction between the anode or cathode and the electrolyte membrane, but with continuous fuel and air supplies.

When the hydrogen comes into contact with the catalyst, it splits into protons and electrons; the protons passing through a ‘proton exchange membrane’ and on to the cathode side of the fuel cell.

The electrons are blocked and forced to travel through an external circuit, which as they do, they create electricity, which can be used for battery recharging, or directly powering an electric motor.

Ultimately, the protons and electrons rejoin together and combine with oxygen, creating H2O, the totally harmless fluid we get out of our taps!

However, hydrogen fuel cells are expensive and protecting them from potential damage from external elements such as cooling water is critical! Using high-quality heat exchangers within the cooling system is extremely important.

This led Bowman to develop a range of titanium shell and tube units, to support the performance requirements of marine renewable energy applications, such as clean hydrogen.

Recently introduced, the Bowman range includes over 15 model variants, capable of dissipating between 3 kW and 65 kW of heat from the cooling circuit, providing a cost-effective titanium solution that is virtually impervious to corrosion.

UK manufactured, using titanium, aluminium and composite materials, these heat exchangers are also much lighter than traditional marine specification units, helping to reduce the overall weight of ancillary equipment.

Bowman also offer a range of larger titanium units, offering up to 700 kW of heat dissipation, for applications higher heat loads are generated.

Hydro Motion vessel at Monaco ChallengeAlready the ‘go to brand’ for battery electric marine propulsion, Bowman heat exchangers proved their hydrogen cooling capabilities at the 2022 Monaco Energy Boat Challenge.

Here Bowman helped TU Delft Hydro Motion Team win the ‘Endurance Challenge’, a 6-hour race with no recharging or refuelling. Finishing 7 laps ahead of their nearest competitor, Hydro Motion achieved an amazing result, clearly demonstrating clean hydrogen’s potential for the marine industry.


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