Wednesday, November 14, 2018

New Research Aims to Bring Hydrogen Powered Fuel Cells to Larger Commercial Vessels

Two Companies Link to Investigate New Technologies
Shipping News Feature
NORWAY – WORLDWIDE – ABB, makers of the Azipod podded electric propulsion system, regularly fitted to specialist and cruise vessels, has joined with SINTEF Ocean to explore the viability of fuel cells as an energy source for main ship propulsion. The testing methodology, to be developed at SINTEF Ocean's Trondheim-based laboratory, will use two 30kW fuel cells, set up to model the operation and control of a complete marine power system in a megawatt-scale propulsion plant.

The laboratory in Trondheim has been a key research resource for ABB, providing a focus for research into the fine details of its design innovations and helping to bring its most advanced maritime technologies to market, including ABB Onboard DC GridTM. ABB's own software together with SINTEF Oceans vessel simulator capabilities will imitate and play back different load profiles and diesel/battery/fuel cell combinations, and tested in a scaled down laboratory environment. Anders Valland, research manager for maritime energy systems at SINTEF Ocean, explained:

"SINTEF is contributing the hydrogen supply and infrastructure, while having a test lab gives ABB and SINTEF Ocean the opportunity to increase in-house competence for integration, control and safety of fuel cell technology in marine applications. SINTEF has extensive capabilities with regard to fuel cell technology, maritime energy systems, electric power systems and power electronics, which gives us an edge in developing innovative solutions."

The trials will explore more than the technicalities of scaling-up and optimized fuel cell/battery combinations alone. Another key objective will be establishing how to enhance the control of fuel cell plant in combination with energy storage, and how to optimize efficiency, reliability and the lifetime of fuel cell stacks. Using hydrogen as fuel, the proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEM) separates electrons and protons, with protons passing through and electrons used as electrical output. Hydrogen is converted directly to electricity and heat without combustion.

PEM fuel cells operate at a lower temperature, are lighter and more compact than their solid oxide counterparts. Kristoffer Dønnestad, R&D engineer, ABB Marine & Ports, Trondheim, commented:

"We will be seeking the decisive and practical solutions to develop fuel cell technology for main propulsion. Research will focus not only on fuel flow and fuel handling, but on what a hydrogen ship bunkering infrastructure might look like."

This new research project intends to seek to provide the answers required for fuel cell technology to be delivered at the scale needed to power commercial and passenger ships, mostly so far such power has been intended for smaller scale operations. Jostein Bogen, product manager for energy storage and fuel cells at ABB Marine & Ports, observed:

"Fuel cell technology is maturing quickly. These trials are expected to provide the platform for fuel cells to build on, so that they can take a position in the maritime sector that is competitive with fossil fuels. Finding unknowns and coping with them in a controlled environment, rather than risking surprises on board ship will be central to these trials."