ABB and SINTEF to model fuel cell propulsion

A new research project led by ABB at SINTEF Ocean’s laboratory in Trondheim will study the use of fuel cells in commercial and passenger ship propulsion, as well as the handling of hydrogen fuel.

The testing will use two 30kW proton exchange membrane (PEM) cells fuelled by hydrogen. They will be set up to model the operation and control of a marine power system and megawatt-scale propulsion plant. ABB software and SINTEF Ocean’s vessel simulation will allow the partners to model load profiles and power and propulsion configurations incorporating diesel engines, batteries and fuel cells.

“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,” said Jostein Bogen, product manager for energy storage and fuel cells, ABB Marine & Ports. “Finding unknowns and coping with them in a controlled environment, rather than risking surprises on board ship will be central to these trials.”

The project will also aim to improve the control of fuel cell plant in combination with energy storage, and optimise the efficiency, reliability and lifetime of fuel cell stacks. Hydrogen ship bunkering infrastructure will also be examined, with SINTEF providing hydrogen supply and logistics at its laboratory.

The project is the latest development in ABB’s investment in fuel cells. As reported, the company has also partnered with Ballard Power Systems to develop a 3MW PEM cell for marine use, which will be the largest marine fuel cell to date. A pilot project with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines led by ABB also uses a Ballard fuel cell.

Bogen noted that fuel cells and hydrogen will enable even deep-sea shipping to benefit from sustainable, combustion-free generation of electricity, heat and clean water by 2050, if not earlier. He said: “With the use of renewables to produce hydrogen for fuel cells and stored energy for batteries, the entire chain can be clean.”

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