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GE and Nedstack set sights on zero-emission cruise vessels

GE’s Power Conversion business and Nedstack, a leading fuel cell manufacturer, are collaborating to develop hydrogen fuel cell systems for powering zero-emission cruise vessels.

The new partnership brings together GE’s recognized expertise in cruise electrical power and propulsion solutions, plus system integration capability, with Nedstack’s extensive experience in megawatt-scale hydrogen fuel cell technology. The result will be highly efficient fuel cell solutions that enable a zero-emission cruise industry.

GE and Nedstack envisage using this technology on passenger ships, replacing traditional diesel engines with fuel cells, and heavy fuel oil (HFO) with hydrogen.

So far, the partners have designed the concept for a 2MW hydrogen fuel cell powerplant on an expedition vessel. The review result has been extremely positive, and the ultimate goal is a truly zero-emission system that will enable the world’s first sustainable, clean cruise ships.

GE’s variable-speed electrical drive system is a crucial part of the system, optimizing control and efficiency by directing and managing the electricity produced by the hydrogen fuel cells.

Frequently switching fuel cells on and off reduces their life expectancy, which is a significant issue for vessels. To give some perspective, a car’s fuel cell is expected to operate for 7,000 hours, whereas for a ship it needs to last more than 20,000 hours. Machine longevity is essential. To overcome this, GE’s variable-drive, fuel cell system architecture and dedicated PMS have been engineered to limit the switch on-and-off frequency of the fuel cells when sailing or in port. Optimizing the system and extending the fuel cells’ lifespan is key to coping with the five-year dry dock intervals that cruise ships demand.

Nedstack and GE have designed a concept for a multi-megawatt hydrogen powerplant for passenger vessels. Its built-in redundancy and scalability are promising.

“Ships are increasingly being required to shut down their engines in port. We’ve seen this in California, for example, and China has introduced an emission control area in the Yangtse delta. However, the trend is shifting from emissions reduction to total elimination. Achieving this will take deep expertise and innovation – and that’s precisely what this collaboration between GE and Nedstack will deliver,” said Azeez Mohammed, president and CEO of GE’s Power Conversion business. - March 2019

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