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Wilhelmsen-led Topeka project awarded $25M to develop two liquid-hydrogen-fueled roro vessels

The Wilhelmsen-led Topeka project, which aims to construct the first zero-emission hydrogen vessels, has been awarded NOK 219 million (US$25 million) by the Norwegian government-owned organization Enova. These funds will enable Wilhelmsen to further develop the technology and additional infrastructure required to support the maritime industry’s ambitions towards zero emission fuels.

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The funds from Enova are a pivotal step in making Topeka happen, and an important milestone for the maritime industry and for Norway as a nation when considering hydrogen as a fuel.

—Jan Eyvin Wang, Senior Vice President, Industrial Investments at Wilhelmsen

To reach our ambitions for zero emission ocean transport, new technology has to be developed. Batteries cover many needs but not all. This means the introduction and usage of zero emission energy carriers such as hydrogen is crucial.

—Nils Kristian Nakstad, Enova CEO

The Topeka project will build two ro-ro vessels servicing the short sea segment. The vessels will, among other tasks, move goods between offshore supply bases along the Norwegian west coast. In addition, the Topeka vessels will transport hydrogen to different filling stations where local ferries and other vessels as well as land transport will have hydrogen as a ready-to-use fuel.

Wilhelmsen aims to be an integral part of the development of hydrogen for marine applications in Norway and also internationally.

The vessels will be the first of their kind to enter commercial service. Providing a two-in-one solution, they will sail on a fixed schedule carrying both coastwise customer cargo and containerized liquid hydrogen (LH2) to the bunkering hubs. Norway’s west coast is dotted with bases serving the offshore industries, with base-to-base transport representing a heavy-duty transport route eminently suited to LH2. The bunkering hubs will in the future supply LH2-powered vessels including ferries and seagoing tonnage.

Hydrogen as a fuel enables opportunities for low, or zero-emission shipping. Topeka will be our first step towards scalable LH2-fueled maritime operations. We shall create a full LH2 infrastructure and commercial ecosystem, while at the same time removing yearly some 25,000 trucks from the roads.

—Topeka coordinator Per Brinchmann, vice president of special projects at Wilhelmsen

Founded in 1861, the Wilhelmsen group operates the largest maritime network on the planet, with more than 2,200 locations worldwide. The group delivers products and services to more than half of the world’s merchant fleet, and also supplies crew and technical management to the biggest and most complex vessels currently at sea.

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