|The Wallenius MV Undine will host the methanol SOFC trial.|
After nearly one and a half years of research and development, the EU-funded METHAPU (Validation of renewable methanol based auxiliary power systems for commercial vessels) project is about to start trials on a prototype of a methanol-based solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) auxiliary power unit (APU). The prototype will be tried and tested for performance and emissions under real-life conditions onboard a vessel—the MV Undine, a Pure Car Truck Carrier (PCTC)—involved in trading between Asia, Europe and the USA.
The one-year METHAPU trial will help to assess the maturity of methanol-based technology and its suitability for daily use in the shipping sector. At the same time, the test will make it possible to quantify the short-term and long-term environmental impact of such a system in comparison with conventional systems. These systems still tend to rely on battery power or generators to provide power independent of the ship’s propulsion source or main electric system.
According to the independent Norwegian organization Det Norske Veritas (DNV), one of the five project partners, the world’s fleet of ships is the source of 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions, 10% to 15% of NOx and 4% to 6% of sulphur oxides. DNV specializes in risk management in various areas and operates internationally.
|Wärtsilä 20 kW APU unit.|
The METHAPU research is focused on SOFC units of the 250 kW class. For marine validation purposes, a smaller 20 kW unit is being installed on board the Undine. The results of the validation run and the tests will contribute to the second and final part of the research—the marine-compatibility of the 250 kW unit, its safety and reliability.
|Flow diagram of the methanol SOFC. Click to enlarge.|
Solid Oxide Fuel Cells are suitable for use in high-power applications. The electrolyte is a solid, nonporous metal oxide. The fuel cell generally operates in the temperature area 600-900°C. The efficiencies of present fuel cell plants are 30-55%, based on the lower heating value (LHV) of the fuel. The fuel cell itself runs on hydrogen—the methanol (or natural gas, in other SOFC applications) is reformed prior to entering the fuel cell.
The METHAPU consortium includes: Wärtsilä, Finland; Wallenius Marine, Sweden; Lloyd’s Register, United Kingdom; University of Genoa, Italy; and Det Norske Veritas, Norway.
The strategic objectives of the METHAPU project are:
To assess the maturity of methanol using technology on board a commercial vessel;
To validate marine-compatible methanol running solid oxide fuel cell technology;
To develop the necessary technology for the use of methanol on board cargo vessels involved in international trade in order to support the introduction of necessary regulations to allowing the use of methanol as a marine fuel;
To assess short-term and long-term environmental impacts of the application; and
To enable future research activities on larger marine compatible solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) units and methanol based economy.