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FuelCell Energy Receives $2.5 Million Contract to Advance Shipboard Fuel Cell Power Plant

Fuel-cell Module in SSFC Facility.

The US Office of Naval Research (ONR) has awarded FuelCell Energy an additional $2.5 million to complete a land-based demonstration of its 0.5 MW ship service fuel cell (SSFC) power plant and begin design work on a next generation ship-based prototype.

The goal of this project is to improve the power generation efficiency on board ships—their non-propulsion hotel power—by using high-efficiency fuel cell technology. To meet the Navy’s shipboard power requirements, FuelCell Energy is adapting its Direct FuelCell (DFC) power plants to run on naval liquid fuels (diesel and jet fuel).

These liquid fuels need to be de-sulfurized before being used as fuel in the DFC plant. As a result, FuelCell Energy has developed a fuel processing system that removes the sulfur before reforming the liquids into methane gas, which can be used as a fuel in the power plant.

The award funds a proof-of-concept land-based demonstration of a carbonate SSFC power plant that will operate at much greater efficiencies than the Navy’s traditional power plants such as diesel generators. In addition, DFC power plants offer the additional advantage of maintaining their high efficiencies at reduced operating outputs, unlike diesel generators which lose efficiency when operated at partial load. The next generation of ship service fuel cell power plants will feature modular architecture, expected to result in lower costs and increased compatibility with more types of Navy and cruise ships.

The project is part of an ongoing ONR vision for developing and deploying a megawatt-size ship service fuel cell power plant. The company completed conceptual design and supporting testing of critical components for the marine module which federal formed the basis of the demonstration power unit. The unit is scheduled to complete testing in Danbury and be delivered to Naval Sea Systems Command’s Philadelphia Detachment for further on-site testing and validation.




This is one (maybe only) application where Fuel Cell make sense.

allen Z

It would be great if the fuel cell could use the Carbon from the hydrocarbon fuel in some way. Otherwise, a combined cycle (gas+steam turbine with waste heat freshwater production and absorption chillers) propulsion/electric system looks like the future. Diesel engines could get ~60% efficiency, but a combined cycle could get 70-85% thermodynamic efficiency when all things are considered.

Bill Young

For military applications, remember that fuel cells have zero moving parts. That makes for a very low noise signature. Plus, it has the potential for very high reliability.

Personally, the idea of an aircraft carrier or a destroyer being stealth borders on the absurd, but the navy doesn't think so. (Really, how do you hide an aircraft carrier!)

One of the other proposed applications for fuel cells is as auxillary power for RVs' and/or parked semis'. The noise level and (if straight hydrogen is the fuel) low noxious exhaust are significant in these applications also.


Actauly alot of fuel cell work is being done simply because they want a fuel cell to power a laser cannon mounted on tanks and humvees and such. They also want extremely small fuel cells to power personal equipment because a fuel cell is ALOT lighter then batteries and lasts longer.

allen Z

If the fuel cells (or another system) can use the carbon to convert the chemical to mechanical, or electrical energy with >40% thermodynamic efficiency, then we have parity with the gas turbines currently powering non-nuclear surface combatants. If the efficiency could increase to >55%, then we have an advantage over diesel. If the amount exceeds the 70% of combined cycled system with extensive thermal recycling/utilization, then we have a winner. It might be fitted on next gen surface combatants.


Diesel generators on freighter ships in dock is a major source of pollution in Los Angeles harbor. If they could switch to fuel cells, it would eliminate a lot of smog.

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