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ABB and SINTEF test fuel cells for main ship propulsion potential

ABB and SINTEF Ocean are undertaking research to test the viability of fuel cells as an energy source for main ship propulsion. The new research project seeks to provide the answers required for fuel cell technology to be delivered at the scale needed to power commercial and passenger ships.

The testing methodology, to be developed at SINTEF Ocean’s Trondheim-based laboratory, will use two Hydrogenics 30kW fuel cells, set up to model the operation and control of a complete marine power system in a megawatt-scale propulsion plant. 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.

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The trials will explore more than the technicalities of scaling-up and optimized fuel cell/battery combinations alone.

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.

—Anders Valland, research manager for maritime energy systems at SINTEF Ocean

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.

—Jostein Bogen, product manager for energy storage and fuel cells at ABB Marine & Ports

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.

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.

—Kristoffer Dønnestad, R&D engineer, ABB Marine & Ports, Trondheim

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 Grid.

Comments

Engineer-Poet

Low-speed diesels are already beating 50% thermal efficiency.  Betting on a slightly better converter of chemical energy, compared to a prime mover driven by an energy source roughly a million times more potent per unit mass, is a losing bet.

Short fuel cells.  Long NuScale and Moltex.

Lad

Efficient yes; but, very nasty pollution wise. One offered alternative is to replace the house size diesel engines with LNG turbines that are much cleaner and smaller and allows for increased space...more cargo. which decreases the break even time. And, using diesel for new ships no longer makes good economic sense.

Engineer-Poet

Fuel cost, weight and bulk (which cuts into cargo space) is a huge factor in cargo shipping.  You're not going to improve that by replacing compact bunker fuel tanks with big insulated LNG tanks.

Efficient yes; but, very nasty pollution wise.

What do you mean by that?  Practically nothing gets out of a nuclear reactor except heat.  A NuScale has 3 barriers between the fuel and the environment:  the fuel cladding wall, the steam generator wall and the condenser wall.  There's so little spent fuel you can literally pile it up in steel and concrete casks and just leave it for a century.

A NuScale-based ship power plant would be considerably smaller and lighter than just the fuel tanks required for today's diesels, and would easily run the ship for years without refueling.

It looks like a Moltex-based ship power plant would be a fraction of the size and weight of even a NuScale power plant.  Still reading through that.

Engineer-Poet

NB, I just looked up a source which says that the Emma Maersk burns 14 tons of bunker fuel per hour at full power, and its 30 MW of auxiliaries (for things like power for refrigerated cargo) burn up to another 6.6 tons.

Guesstimating a total of 15 tons per hour at "slow steaming" economy cruise, that is 360 tons of fuel per day.  An all-up NuScale unit at 700 tons total is the equivalent of about 2 days worth of fuel for the Emma Maersk.  Conclusion:  a nuclear-powered container ship would gain a large amount of extra cargo capacity AND speed.

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