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Nuvera Fuel Cells and HELINOR Energy collaborate on developing scalable zero-emission energy solutions for maritime applications

Nuvera Fuel Cells signed a formal technology development agreement with HELINOR Energy, a Norwegian scale-up technology and production provider of next-generation hydrogen fuel cell and fire suppression modules. Under the agreement, HELINOR will fund the development of scalable marine power solutions incorporating Nuvera’s next-generation high-power fuel cell engine technology with HELINOR’s expertise in the maritime industry.

In response to the International Maritime Organization’s strategy to achieve its target for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, HELINOR is committed to expediting the transition to zero-carbon shipping by offering compact, lightweight, and powerful fuel cell modules, and to setting new standards in safety at sea. Nuvera’s high-efficiency fuel cell engines are the ideal solution because their high-power density makes optimal use of limited on-board space, and their demonstrated high-efficiency performance affords longer range and lower operating costs.

—Elling Helvig, Chairman of HELINOR

Nuvera E-Series Fuel Cell Engines provide outputs ranging from 5 to 120 kW and higher, and can power mid- and heavy-duty vehicles such as buses, trucks, port equipment, container handling, delivery vans, forklifts and more, and non-road equipment for ground support, mining, agriculture and construction. For high-power applications, multiple engines can be combined.

For maritime applications, fuel cells can be used for both primary propulsion and auxiliary power to provide zero-emissions operation without the need for shoreside charging.

Nuvera is a subsidiary of Hyster-Yale Group, Inc., which designs, engineers, manufactures, sells, and services a comprehensive line of lift trucks and aftermarket parts marketed globally primarily under the Hyster and Yale brand names.



' next-generation hydrogen fuel cell and fire suppression modules.'

Back around 10 years ago, there was considerable interest in using fuel cells in data centers not only for power but fire suppression, as they can alter the composition of the air so that combustion can't happen.

A quick google has not yeilded anything on whether these efforts have continued or did not pan out.

Of course, it would also be dead handy in boats, especially perhaps electrified ones, where a stack of lithium batteries at sea poses substantial risks.

The hydrogen naturally poses its own challenges! ;-)


The exhaust from a PEM fuel cell is mostly water vapor but it can be some hydrogen
if it's not recycled. That's not exactly a fire retardant.



Here is how it works:

'Another beneficial use for fuel cells is as a fire suppression system, utilizing the nitrogen-rich output from the fuel cell to manage the oxygen level helps ensure that there is enough to breathe, but not enough to support a fire. Most data centers currently use either water or gas-based fire suppression systems; a data center in Germany, Equinix, installed a fuel cell in 2013 and is the first in the world use
the fuel cell for reliable power and fire suppression capability.'

The oxygen in the air is used to combine with the hydrogen for power, and they drop the content enough to not support combustion, although it is perfectly breathable.
Of course you need to have a fairly sealed environment, but data centers need that anyway to avoid dust etc.

In a ship, the battery compartment would be a great place to pump in oxygen low air, as lithium batteries are a substantial hazard


My SWAG on why we have not heard more about using fuel cells for fire suppression in data centers is that they are only just being introduced for back up power:

I dunno how much just using them for backup would affect their usability to control fire, ie how quickly they could reduce the oxygen content in the room so as not to support combustion.
Should be good in the relatively confined space of a ship's battery compartment though.


Also, thinking a bit more, up to now due to costs data centers have used diesel for back up.
Fuel cells are now reaching larger scale production, and getting cheaper, as well as greatly reducing CO2, so are likely to assume a greater part in back up power.

IOW, it looks as though fuel cells for fire suppression have not failed, but simply have not been tried extensively due to previously high costs.

Initially I had thought perhaps they did not work well for fire suppression, so had not been introduced extensively, but there would seem to be no reason to assume that, as due to costs fuel cell back ups have not been widely introduced.

The bottom line is that seems likely to change over the next few years with falling costs.


I could see the nitrogen and water vapor being in the hold of the ship reducing the spread of fire but they're going to have to make sure any excess hydrogen is sieved back to the input.



It is not really the water vapour and nitrogen doing the job of fire suppression, but at least mainly reducing the remaining oxygen after combination with hydrogen producing electricity in the fuel cell to below the level where combustion can be maintained.

Once it drops below 15 or 16%, combustion is not possible.

It obviously only happens in sealed environments.

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