Vessels with Fuel Cells

Power Supply for Seagoing Vessels

When it comes to shipping, a great amount of electrical energy is required for the supply of technical systems on board. This is not just the case on the high sea, but also in in the harbour. At present, combustion engine driven generators which are run by diesel fuel are used for power generation. High sound and pollutant emissions are the consequence. In an increasingly number of harbour and coastal areas these emissions are no longer tolerated because of the rigorous guidelines of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The sea test of the fuel cell system in the demonstration project SchIBZ is to take place on the MS Forester. Photo: Rörd Braaren

In cooperation with partners, OWI researches and develops fuel cell systems that generate a fuel gas based on the diesel fuel which is already stored on board. This fuel gas can be converted into electrical energy by fuel cells. As a result, sound, vibration and exhaust emissions are evidently reduced: nitric oxides (NOx) and soot do not emerge anymore and the trivial carbon monoxide (CO) emissions can be removed by simple oxidation catalysts. The electric efficiency can be increased by fuel cell systems to more than 45% and thereby the CO2-emissions are reduced.

In the developmental phase of the project SchiBZ – Schiffsintegration Brennstoffzelle, OWI works on a prototype for the steam-reforming of diesel into a gas of hydrogen, methane, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, which is converted into electrical energy by a fuel cell. The advantages of a system which is based on a high-temperature fuel cell are low production costs and its comparably high power density.

The power range of an individual system is about 500 kWel. In case of the higher energy demand of container vessels or mega yachts, it can be integrated on board at various places by means of a modular setup of several fuel cell aggregates and thus, it can be increased up to the megawatt range according to demand.

By now, OWI can draw on experience in the design and approval of fuel cell systems in naval applications in these contexts. These skills are transferable to other marine applications, such as in the on-board electric power supply of sailing and motor yachts.