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ABB and SINTEF test fuel cells for main 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 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 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 testing will take place in a scaled-down laboratory environment.

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,” said Anders Valland, research manager for maritime energy systems at SINTEF Ocean.

“Fuel cell technology is maturing quickly,” added Jostein Bogen, product manager for energy storage and fuel cells at ABB Marine & Ports. “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.”

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,” said Kristoffer Dønnestad, R&D engineer, ABB Marine & Ports. “Research will focus not only on fuel flow and fuel handling, but on what a hydrogen ship bunkering infrastructure might look like.”

- November 2018

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