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ABB to deliver first fuel cell system for Royal Caribbean; Ballard FCvelocity

ABB will deliver the first fuel cell system to provide an energy source for a luxury cruise ship. The system will be piloted on board a Royal Caribbean International vessel. In October 2016, Royal Caribbean announced that its newest class of ships would be powered by LNG and would likely introduce the use of fuel cell technology. (Earlier post.) The ~200,000 gross ton large cruise ships—dubbed Icon class—will be delivered in the second quarters of 2022 and 2024.

The pilot installation, including control, converter and transformer technology from ABB, will generate 100 kW of energy, and has been fully developed, marinized, assembled and tested by ABB Marine & Ports. ABB selected a 100 kW FCvelocity proton exchange membrane (PEM) pure hydrogen fuel cell unit from Ballard Power Systems for the pilot system.

Last year was the first time that mobile power from fuel cells exceeded stationary installations, according to The Fuel Cell Industry Review 2016, and the maritime industry is quickly recognizing the potential of a technology that delivers emissions-free simplicity, maintainability and efficiency.

This pilot installation demonstrates that fuel cell technology is now firmly in sight of the cruise industry. Fuel cells have been the next big thing for 25 years, but now they are reality. At ABB, we believe that the next generations of vessels will be electric, digital and connected. Fuel cell technology matches exactly that. Fuel cells have significantly higher efficiency than combustion engines and allow energy to be concentrated more densely than in petroleum fuels. If you use renewables to produce the hydrogen the entire energy chain is clean and truly emission free.

—Juha Koskela, Managing Director, ABB Marine & Ports

The debut installation, which anticipates RCL’s commitment to include emissions-free fuel cell technology as part of the powering for its forthcoming Icon-class ships was on display at the owner’s Technology Display Days event in New York, 8-10 November.

Our goal is to take the smoke out of the smokestacks. We are dedicated to innovation, continuous improvement, and environmental responsibility, and using fuel cell technology gives us the opportunity to deliver against all three of these pillars.

—Harri Kulovaara, Executive Vice President of Maritime and Newbuilding, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd



Going with LNG instead of heavy oil for the main power is a good thing but the total power requirement for a ship of this size is in excess of 50 MW. What are they going to do with a 100 KW fuel cell other than talk about it (more green-wash)? 100 KW would not even run the emergency exit lighting for a ship this size and it is too easy to run larger emergency generators directly with natural gas.


Maybe this would be a good future application for a variation of a small modular reactor if the cost is reasonable.


Maybe this is a much smaller circuit for emergency like coms.

Anyway, I agree this would make much more sense if they put in a bigger stack, yes its a trial, but why not try something useful, perhaps 1MW or something to get shipwide power.

Maybe the fuelcell powers their air lubrication?

They are using LNG, perhaps bloombox could help, or perhaps their turbine is efficient enough. Almost anything beats Bunkeroil so, ill say this is a good step.

The one thing I never understood about cryo fuels is the need to vent, assuming they could just consume at a rate (if they could use the vapor) and use the totality of the fuels. Watching video about LNG trucking, yes it was cheap, but they ended up wasting tons of NG just sitting over night with fuel inside.

I think shipping is currently some of the most polluting transportation on the planet, both toxins and CO2. Anything to clean that up would be awesome.

And Bri

It will be better to use renewable gazeous hydrogen in interbal combustion engines where the engine is gasoline or diesel mix with a percentage of hydrogen where it also burn excess pollutants in the fuel mix.


The basic problem here is the loss of efficiency when you convert energy from one form to another. For example; converting CNG to hydrogen then running a Fuel Cell to convert to electricity to finally run an electric motor to turn a screw is costly and complicating. Seems to me running a Genset on LNG, with proper emissions control, to power the electric motor would be the correct interim measure to reduce pollution until the right clean technology is developed and can be use to replace the genset. Hopefully this can be accomplished ASAP because burning bunker oil in huge 3 story high shipboard diesel engines is killing off the Planet rapidly.


It is not clear what type of prime mover the new ships use. Their largest current ships use 4 Wärtsilä diesels with a total power of about 70 MW plus they have 2 Cat diesel backup generators with a total of 5 KW so you can see how much emergency power is considered necessary. Anyway, the primer movers may be a NG version of the Wärtsilä which uses a small amount of diesel for ignition. LNG is just the fuel storage. I am reasonably sure that the fuel is actually fed into the engine as a high pressure gas so there should be no loss from boil off. Anyway, this is a much cleaner way to run a ship and maybe even cheaper.


Lame Greenwashing. If they were serious, they'd use a solid-oxide FC.


Its probably a lot cheaper.

I am glad a leisure line of vessels are taking the initiative for themselves, which might lead the way for others to go the LNG route.

Actually, by 2020 there are plans to have 9 more of the "biggest" container ships by 2020. 22,000 containers each having LNG.

This should rapidly clean up our oceans, even just by the burning the LNG, they probably could clean the air of many particulates. also wouldn't it make sense to have LNG turbines? you could have a combined cycle powerplant right on board a vessel. Sure it might be a bit noisier than an ICE, but it would certainly be more efficient at peak (which I would assume would be months of travel). You could then use smaller powerplants/storage like fuelcells or battery, for coming into port. Also, they could possibly just power a port as they come in to dock.


Good points CheeseEater88.
Combined Cycle is definitely an alternative to LNG Compression Ignition engines (Royal Caribbean will probably use the Wartsila engines already in use by all of their other ships except using the duel fuel version designed for LNG).
The pollution requirements in most ports is now forcing shipping companies to stop using Bulk Oil, particularly Cruise Lines that spend a lot of time at the port.
Combined Cycle plants could even use ULSD diesel even though it has higher CO2 emissions since the powerplant would have higher overall efficiency than an ICE. The 90,228gt Millennium delivered to Celebrity Cruises is an example of a Combined Cycle powered ship. From "Millennium is equipped with a pair of GE Marine Engines’ LM2500+ aeroderivative gas turbines and a single steam turbine instead of the traditional four or five diesel engines on a cruise ship. These three prime movers each drive an AC electric generator. This system, the GE combined cycle gas turbines and steam turbine integrated Electric Propulsion System (COGES), supplies power to two electrically driven podded propulsion units".

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