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Construction begins on Neo Orbis; fuel cell vessel with sodium borohydride hydrogen carrier

With the keel laying, construction has begun at Next Generation Shipyards in the Netherlands of Neo Orbis, a 20m fuel-cell hybrid port vessel using sodium borohydride as a solid-state hydrogen storage medium. The pilot project is being executed in collaboration with H2Ships, Port of Amsterdam, TU Delft Fuel (the inventor and builder of the sodium borohydride installation), MARIN (the maritime research institution), Wijk Yacht Vision (partner and designer of the ship), Lloyd's Register (supervisor of the certification and safety inspection for the ship), and Baumuller (systems integrator).

The Neo Orbis will replace the port’s current saloon boat De Havenbeheer and will be used to show clients around the port, Amsterdam city center and up the North Sea Canal. It will showcase the port’s commitment to the energy transition and demonstrate hydrogen as an emission-free fuel.


The Interreg North-West Europe project H2SHIPS and pilot port, Port of Amsterdam, launched a public tender for the construction of the Neo Orbis in March 2022.

Kiellegging neo orbis

Welding a coin for prosperity and happiness for the ship and its crew.

Construction is expected to be completed by the end of the second quarter. The second half of the year will be dominated by placing the plant that will mix the sodium borohydride granules with pure water, creating hydrogen. The construction of the ship at Next Generation Shipyards in Lauwersoog is also innovative. All parts of the ship’s hull are ready as a cutting pattern. The welders will put the parts together.

Neo Orbis is expected to enter service in 2024.

Sodium borohydride (NaBH4) is a chemical compound with high hydrogen content; it has been of interest as a hydrogen carrier for decades. The then DaimlerChrysler used Millenium Cell sodium borohydride it its Natrium fuel cell concept car, introduced in 2001.

When NaBH4 is suspended in an aqueous solution and then passed over a catalyst, the reaction produces hydrogen, along with a benign byproduct—sodium metaborate—that can be recycled back into sodium borohydride.

In 2007, an independent technical review panel convened by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to consider the technical status and progress of R&D on the hydrolysis of sodium borohydride for on-board vehicular hydrogen storage has unanimously recommended a “no-go” to further funding due to a number of limiting factors. (Earlier post.)


Source: Port of Amsterdam

The Neo Orbis project partners note that while sodium borohydride offers high volumetric energy density (close to diesel) and is safer than gas or liquid hydrogen, the economic side is a challenge. Those issues are not part of this pilot, however; the goal of the pilot is to demonstrate that the use of sodium borohydride in a vessel is indeed possible.



I had not come across this before, but when I did I did a bit of hunting around.
It should be noted that the 'no go' recommendation was in the context of cars, where it is bulky with the ancillary equipment, and generally unsuitable.

Powering ships is a very different matter, aside from technology today having advanced since 2007

These folk are also trying to develop sodium borohydride:
The weakness of this chemical is primarily low round trip efficiency, perhaps of the order of 50%, although of course there may be different strategies to mitigate this.

It should also be bourne in mind that we have run the world pretty successfully for the last couple of hundred years on fossil fuels at something like the same efficiencies, but with loads of GHG and other crap also produced, so it would seem unwise to seek to dismiss technologies for not instantly solving everything.

Those who try to do so are primarily engaged in a fantasy about batteries everywhere for everything, when many applications are out of their performance envelope by orders of magnitude.

Long distance shipping, for instance.

I don't much fancy the chances for this against LOHC, methanol, ammonia etc, but we will have to wait to see how they get on.

And nope, it is not happening for cars anymore than it was in 2007,

We will have to see how this pans out

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