While electric power is the flavor du jour, there is a growing sense that batteries might not be the panacea turning all modes of transportation into a zero-emissions game. Hence the talk about hydrogen and electrofuels (aka e-fuels) that have “potential to be disruptive if carbon-neutral electrofuels are cheaper than petroleum fuels and if chemical feedstocks produced by electrosynthesis are cheaper than those refined from crude oil,” according to Wikipedia. In that context, Fossil Free Marine, a Swedish company, announced the opening of the first unmanned floating fuel dock to dispense a wide variety of fuels, including bio and e-fuels, but no hydrogen at this time.
German luxury car brands invested in synthetic fuel projects and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are said to have looked into the technology, which is considered technically feasible if not financially viable due to the oil drilling and fracking boom in the U.S. in the recent past.
As the war in Ukraine has shaken up energy supply chains, especially in Europe, which is heavily dependent on imports, e-fuels are back on the agenda. “The station is designed to handle any type of liquid fuel, including more corrosive biofuels, such as ethanol-based fuels and e-methanol,” Karl-Oskar Tjernström, CEO and co-founder of Fossil Free Marine, wrote in an e-mail. The facility is located in Islinge, near Stockholm, and operates under the management of OKQ8, a fuel company.
It’s a “true world’s first, patent-pending, design protected, assured by the DNV [Det Norske Veritas], and compliant with the same strict environmental and safety standards as a modern unmanned station on land,” the company claims. “It bridges the distribution gap from suppliers of sustainable fuels to boat owners wishing to reduce their environmental impact. For the first time, boaters can conveniently access modern drop-in renewable fuels that can be run in any diesel or gas engine, resulting in immediate and substantial reduction in CO2 emissions—up to 90% reduction of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) with HVO100 (hydrogenated vegetable oil).”
At 24m (79‘) long, 4.3m (14‘) wide, and with an empty weight of 35 t (77,000 lbs), the fuel station can accommodate small to medium leisure craft and small commercial vessels. The initiative was partly funded by grants from Climate Leap (KlimatKlivet), a Swedish government scheme to support local climate-friendly investments. Benefits of the new dock, according to Fossil Free Marine, include future-proof and environmentally safe construction materials, protection from fuel theft with pipes installed below deck behind a single locked access hatch, large capacity and variety (the ability to supply several different niche fuels alongside regular fare such as diesel and gasoline), and staying on an even keel even as tank volumes vary.
“Everything below deck is made out of composites, to ensure compatibility with all types of fuel,” Tjernström explained. “In total, there are six fuel tanks, each with 10m3 capacity [roughly equaling the volume of 15,850 gal—ed.]. This provides flexibility to handle several different fuel types simultaneously, and large total volume to simplify logistics and minimize risk of out of stock during busy peak seasons.” Tjernström did not disclose specifics about the composite materials in the construction, except to say they are “similar to that used in naval vessels, like modern warships and submarines, using state-of-the-art production technology and materials.”
This first version is built to handle liquid-based fuels only, he said in response to the question about the fuel types that will be available to boaters. “But hydrogen is a field that we are investigating with partners. We see [it] as an extremely interesting case for the marine sector, with several very interesting applications.” As the first such fuel dock, the station in Islinge is deemed proof of concept while operating commercially. Tjernström said Fossil Free Marine received inquiries from other Scandinavian countries and the Mediterranean as well as North America and French Polynesia.
Fossil Free Marine, Norrsken House, Birger Jarlsgatan 57C, 113 56 Stockholm, Sweden, tel. +46 76 0742666