ABB and the research organisation SINTEF of Norway are investigating whether fuel cells are a feasible energy source for main ship propulsion. The partners will model a complete marine power system in a megawatt-scale propulsion plant.
Ultimately the project by ABB and SINTEF seeks to provide the answers required for fuel cell technology to be delivered at the scale needed to power commercial and passenger ships.
The test method, which will be developed in SINTEF Ocean’s laboratory in Trondheim, will use two 30 kW Hydrogenics fuel cells by ABB to model the operation and control of a complete megawatt ship propulsion system. ABB’s own software together with SINTEF vessel simulator will test and model different load profiles and diesel/battery/fuel cell combinations. Obviously the laboratory environment is scaled down but both partners are confident that they eventually can scale up the concept.
But the trials will explore more than the technicalities of scaling-up and optimising the system. “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,” says Anders Valland, research manager for maritime energy systems at SINTEF Ocean.
His colleague at ABB, Jostein Bogen adds: “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”.
Another objective will be to see how to enhance the control of fuel cell plant in combination with energy storage, and how to optimise efficiency, reliability and the lifetime of fuel cell stacks. “Research will focus not only on fuel flow and fuel handling, but on what a hydrogen ship bunkering infrastructure might look like,” explains Kristoffer Dønnestad, R&D engineer, ABB Marine & Ports, Trondheim.
The SINTEF laboratory in Trondheim has been a key resource for ABB, providing research into the fine details of its designs and helping to bring its maritime technologies to market. Norway targets zero emissions from ships in the fjords from 2026.