Prince Madog research vessel to be powered by hydrogen in £5.5m Transship II project

The UK’s only fully seagoing research ship within the UK's higher education sector, the Prince Madog, is set to reduce its emissions by up to 60% thanks to a pioneering £5.5 million hydrogen power initiative that could help re-shape the future of shipping.

Prince Madog research vessel to be powered by hydrogen in £5.5m Transship II project

The Transship II project is the largest retrofit of its kind to-date and will see the Prince Madog retrofitted with a hydrogen electric hybrid propulsion system that will enable zero to low emission operation by 2025.

The project is part of the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition Round 3 (CMDC3), funded by the Department for Transport in partnership with Innovate UK. It will be delivered by a consortium of major UK innovators in green maritime technology and hydrogen systems, led by O.S Energy who own and operate a fleet of dedicated offshore service vessels.

Other consortium partners include H2Tec, part of Edinburgh-based hydrogen technologies expert Logan Energy, as well as Solis Marine Engineering, Newcastle Marine Services, Chartwell Marine, Cedar Marine, Stone Marine Propulsion and the universities of Exeter and Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. The consortium was supported in its bid by Menter Môn, the developer of the Holyhead Hydrogen Hub, a potential local green hydrogen supply partner for the consortia.

The Prince Madog, co-owned by Bangor University in Wales, recently celebrated 20 years of service to education and science. The research vessel has changed the way we understand marine and coastal sciences and is the only one of its kind in the UK and one of the largest in Europe.

The new hydrogen propulsion system, which will work in conjunction with a diesel-fuelled main engine, will enable zero emission operation at slow speeds or over short distances - such as daily teaching trips with the students from the School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor University. In normal operation, the hybrid system and new novel propulsion design will reduce emissions by up to 60%.

According to Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (OREC), it is estimated the offshore support sector will be worth £26 billion by 2050 and that an additional 1,200 vessels will be needed to service the UK’s industry and support the transition to net zero by 2050. 

Around 90% of all consumables are moved by sea and the shipping industry globally is responsible for 940 million tonnes of CO2 - the equivalent of at least 2.5% of the world’s total CO2 emissions.

The International Maritime Organisation has set a target to cut these emissions by 50% by 2050 and the UK government is the first in the world to include emissions from international shipping in its domestic carbon budget.

Professor John Turner, head of Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences, said, 

“With a renewed focus on the marine renewable energy industry, this is an exciting and welcome development for the Prince Madog in facilitating our teaching and research. With an ambition to be leaders in this field, it is only fitting that our vessel is moving over to cutting-edge technology which significantly reduces emissions. Reducing our carbon footprint by moving over to hydrogen power means Bangor University can continue to build upon our world-leading understanding of the environment and physical positioning of marine energy sites in a sustainable way.”

Dafydd Gruffydd, Managing Director of Menter Môn, said:

"This is great news for the consortia and Menter Môn as it provides us with the opportunity to support the enlargement of an emergent local green hydrogen circular economy from our Holyhead Hydrogen Hub production facility at Parc Cybi, currently under development. This will be powered by our Morlias tidal energy infrastructure providing a truly green transport and marine energy solution and to the benefit of the local economy.”

Anglesey Council’s Climate Change Portfolio Holder, Councillor Nicola Roberts, said:

“This initiative is a positive step on the journey to develop a low carbon economy on Anglesey and it also compliments Anglesey’s Energy Island programme. We are delighted to see that this innovative project will enable the Prince Madog research ship to be powered by hydrogen, thus reducing CO2 emissions, and developing a cleaner energy solution for the shipping industry.”

The Prince Madog is a multi-purpose research vessel used to conduct marine research along the British coastline and in the Irish and Celtic Seas. As the only fully seagoing research ship ni a UK university, it’s commonly used to train future marine scientists at Bangor University and further afield.

The retrofit work, which will take up to two years, is set to begin in April. Once complete, the Prince Madog will receive hydrogen from the Holyhead Hydrogen Hub on Anglesey, North Wales.