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The energy company Statkraft and its subsidiary Skagerak Energi have received an order to supply so-called green hydrogen to an 88-meter-long, emission-free ship that will operate between locations in Norway.

In a statement on Wednesday, Statkraft – owned by the Norwegian state – claimed the ship was “the world’s first hydrogen-powered cargo ship”.

The cement giant HeidelbergCement and Felleskjøpet, an agricultural cooperative, were awarded the contract. The two organizations are working together to develop the project.

The ship, which will also have two rotor sails, will bring grain from the east of Norway to the west of the country and carry gravel back on the way back. It could start operating in 2024, according to Norwegian Ship Design, a company involved in developing the concept.

Those who are behind the initiative planned for Norway may call it a world first, but the field in which they are active is becoming increasingly dense.

In April, Flagships, a project funded by Horizon 2020, an EU research and innovation program, said it will “deploy the world’s first commercial cargo ship to run on hydrogen”.

The inland cargo ship will sail on the Seine in France and commercial operations are expected to begin this year.

While the project with Statkraft is still a few years away from complete realization, hydrogen ships have already been developed and put into operation. In 2008, for example, a fuel cell ship that can carry passengers was put into service on a lake in Hamburg.

More recently, a number of projects have taken shape focusing on the development of hydrogen-powered maritime transport. Earlier this month, plans to build a hydrogen fuel cell-powered sea ferry progressed after it was announced that a commercial contract had been awarded to develop a concept design.

In March of this year, Linde, a company specializing in technical and industrial gases, announced that it had been selected by the Norwegian company Norled to provide liquid hydrogen and the associated infrastructure for a hydrogen-powered ferry. The MF Hydra, as it is known, will be able to carry both passengers and cars.

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Described by the International Energy Agency as a “versatile energy carrier”, hydrogen has a wide range of possible uses and can be used in sectors such as industry and transport.

It can be made in a number of ways. One method involves the use of electrolysis, where an electrical current breaks water into oxygen and hydrogen. If the electricity used comes from renewable sources such as wind or sun, some call it green or renewable hydrogen.

Currently, the vast majority of hydrogen production is fossil fuel based and green hydrogen is expensive to produce.

However, efforts are being made to reduce the cost. The US Department of Energy recently launched its Energy Earthshots initiative, saying the first of these will focus on bringing the cost of “clean” hydrogen down to $ 1 per kilogram (2.2 lbs) in a decade.

According to the DOE, hydrogen from renewable energies costs around $ 5 per kilogram today. “Clean hydrogen is a game changer,” said US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm at the time, adding that it would help “decarbonise the polluting heavy-duty and industrial sectors.”