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Portsmouth project among winners of the UK’s biggest clean maritime competition

Portsmouth port sign on terminal

An ambitious project, led by the University of Portsmouth, has been awarded £1.5 million to help develop and demonstrate a Green Hydrogen energy system within Portsmouth International Port.

The Shipping, Hydrogen & Port Ecosystems UK (SHAPE UK) project was named as one of the winning projects of the £23 million Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition, funded by the Department for Transport, to propel the government’s commitment to have zero emission ships operating commercially by 2025 and establishing the UK as world leaders in clean maritime.

The winners were announced today (15 September 2021) by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, in Greenwich, as part of the greenest ever London International Shipping Week.

Maritime operations are crucial to the efficient movement of goods nationally and globally but are often high contributors of CO2e emissions and other air pollutants. The adoption of green low carbon energy systems offers the potential to support the necessary transition of ports and their operations to net-zero.

Portsmouth International Port is the UK’s largest and most successful municipal port, owned by Portsmouth City Council, and is one of the sites of the new Solent Freeport. It is committed to becoming the first carbon neutral UK port by 2030, and the first zero-emission port by 2050.

The SHAPE UK project will help identify the barriers, infrastructure and regulatory considerations that will enable port managers to install a “Green Hydrogen” generation and storage system within the port. It will also supply a working vessel to the port authority, powered by an engine using green hydrogen.

Green hydrogen uses renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, to power the electrolysis of water to create hydrogen, which will be used to power maritime vessels and dockside vehicles.

Dr David Hutchinson, Reader in Environmental Innovation and Innovation and Impact Development Manager for the Faculty of Technology at the University of Portsmouth, said: “The government has a very ambitious environmental target within the maritime sector. SHAPE UK represents a milestone in the move to innovative low-cost green hydrogen generation and storage systems that bring significant reduction in carbon emissions and air pollution in and around Portsmouth and other UK ports.

“The project will also help the University achieve its core strategic aims. We have committed to becoming climate positive by 2030 and to becoming one of the UK’s leading civic universities; enhancing the local community and region through our research, services, estate, and staff and student collaboration.

“The port is keen to act as a ‘living lab’ so there will be a great student experience element, which will be particularly relevant for students in our Faculty of Technology, such as those on the renewable energy degree.”

Jerry Clarke, Senior Project Manager at Portsmouth International Port, said: “As a port operating in the heart of a major city, and that is owned by the people of Portsmouth, we have an obligation to do everything we can to minimise our impact as we continue to grow in the coming years.

“We know that for heavy machinery and vehicles, current battery technology does not provide us with the answers that we need now. Port light goods vehicles and vans have already been replaced by zero-emission electric vehicles.

“Hydrogen and ammonia are the future fuels identified for a zero-emission future for shipping by 2050. SHAPE UK puts Portsmouth International Port at the forefront of future fuel solutions for the UK.”

SHAPE UK, led by the University of Portsmouth, brings together a wide range of expertise from industry and academia – Portsmouth International Port, Lloyd’s Register, five SMEs (Engas, IOTICS, B4T, KnowNow, and COX), two universities (the Universities of Portsmouth and Brighton) and the Connected Places Catapult.

All of the work will be tied together in the form of impact analysis, workable business models and recommendations and plans for future scalability in other ports across the UK.