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Going green with hydrogen

Italian entity NatPower H and British company Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) have announced the world’s first network for green hydrogen refuelling of recreational boats. The first 25 installations will be made in Italian marinas and ports as part of a goal to reach 100 in the Mediterranean before expanding globally. Donatella Zucca reports

NatPower H, part of the NatPower Group, is investing €100 million in the project, which should see the first installations this summer and has a target to reach the 100 figure over the next six years.
Founded in 2019 by current CEO Fabrizio Zago, NatPower boasts a wealth of renewable projects, all of which have helped in the establishment of NatPower H as the first global player for production, storage and distribution of green hydrogen. The company believes that the use of hydrogen to carry energy through fuel cells and electric motors promises an excellent combination of winning vessel performance and respect for the environment.
When established, the 100 stations will supply up to 3,650 tonnes of green hydrogen every year thus eliminating around 45,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from vessels. The hydrogen is obtained using RINA Pressure Equipment Directive (PED) certified low pressure metal hydride technologies. RINA, formerly the Italian Naval Register, is today a business-to-society company supporting sustainable growth.
The RINA connection adds to the Italian involvement with the project, as does the strategic positioning of NatPower H with the Baglietto shipyards in La Spezia, which – via the Bzero project – are debating the production of storable hydrogen in solid form. No less important is the partnership with the America’s Cup through Bluegame, a Sanlorenzo Group shipyard of which NatPower H is the official technical sponsor.
The protocol for the 37th America’s Cup, to be held later this year in Barcelona, requires each team of challengers to build and use a hydrogen-powered foil chase boat. As its part of the project, NatPower H aims to do two things: create a network of sustainable energy hubs in major marinas, and establish ideal conditions to facilitate the development and use of hydrogen-powered boats.
NatPower H stations use advanced circular building technologies reflecting commitment to an ecologically  responsible future.

NatPower H stations use advanced circular building technologies reflecting commitment to an ecologically responsible future.

NatPower H’s decision to collaborate with ZHA for the refuelling station architecture is based on the latter’s research into modular systems offering adaptable and customisable designs according to location. Infrastructure is designed to respond to specific requirements in terms of size, climatic characteristics, exposure, reception, bicycle charging, pedestrian circulation etc.
The components of each structure are created using robotic 3D material positioning, and are built using low-carbon concrete. The masonry is dry-assembled and is completely recyclable. In appearance, the composition is layered to echo nature, with striated shapes similar to natural Mediterranean formations and marine ecosystems.
The design was developed by ZHA’s Computation and Design Research Group, together with the Block Research Group and Incremental 3D, and is based on studies of unreinforced masonry structures, 3D printed concrete and sustainable digital concrete constructions. Examples can be seen in the 3D printed concrete pedestrian Striatus Bridge presented at the 2021 Venice Biennale and in Holcim Innovation Hub’s Phoenix Bridge in Lyon, France; the first 3D printed concrete masonry bridge, built with ten tonnes of recycled materials.
Italian-born ZHA director, Filippo Innocenti, explains that “the structural strength of ZHA’s hydrogen refuelling stations is generated through geometry rather than increased use of materials.”
“Integrating the latest innovations in construction techniques with the historic engineering developed throughout the Mediterranean by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago, the stations use advanced circular building technologies, reflecting NatPower H’s commitments to an ecologically responsible future.”
Negotiations for the 25 stations are currently underway in marinas and ports such as Trieste, Genoa and La Spezia and, bureaucracy permitting, should soon get the green light – but the launch station will be in Venice. Selecting Italy first is not a patriotic coincidence but a response to the great turmoil regarding hydrogen fuel for recreational boats that has been apparent around the country for some time. There is thus much focus in the country for the potential for hydrogen, and progress too.
The Sanlorenzo Group, for example, in addition to having seen the hydrogen boats from Bluegame put into play, will launch the first 50m (164ft) steel superyacht this year with fuel cells powered by hydrogen obtained from green methanol for the generation of onboard electricity. And, in four years time, the first 50m steel superyacht powered solely by green methanol is expected to be launched as the second step in an R&D project aimed at achieving carbon neutrality.
NatPower H CEO, Andrea Minerdo, says: “Our goal is to facilitate the energy transition of this crucial market, promoting the use of boats powered by hydrogen and without direct CO2 emissions.” The mission is credible if one considers that in just a few years NatPower has become one of the most prominent independent developers and is actively operating in Italy, the UK, Kazakhstan, the USA, Canada, Tunisia and Chile.
In addition to Baglietto Yachts and Bluegame, the NatPower H and ZHA project has collaborated with, amongst others, Linde, Fichtner Italia and Bluenergy Revolution Soc Coop, a 100% Italian company based in Genoa that promotes innovative solutions for energy transition based on green hydrogen, low impact technologies and systems that use recyclable materials.
The challenge of the Mediterranean is very important as the diverse depths of its waters are surrounded by unique cultural, historic and natural heritage. For this reason, stations are being designed so as to be adapted and strategically placed in locations with different peculiarities. Using local materials, such as sand and soil, together with low carbon impact concrete reduces ecological footprint and creates organic forms that integrate well with the environment and celebrate its characteristics and beauty.
Furthermore, by being unreinforced and dry-assembled, the station walls do not require carpentry and are easily and entirely recyclable. It’s an innovation that optimises the efficiency of materials and sets a new standard for waste reduction.

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