ABB and SINTEF Ocean to test fuel cell marine propulsion systems

ABB and SINTEF Ocean to test fuel cell marine propulsion systems
ABB and SINTEF aim to create hydrogen fuel cell-powered marine propulsion systems for passenger ships (Image: ABB Marine and Ports)

Power and automation technology provider ABB and independent research organisation SINTEF Ocean have embarked on a project to test the viability of hydrogen fuel cell-powered marine propulsion systems on passenger ships and commercial vessels.

From their base at SINTEF’s laboratory in Trondheim, Norway, the two companies will use two 30-kilowatt hydrogen-powered proton exchange membrane fuel cells to test the operation and control of a complete marine power system in a megawatt-scale propulsion plant.

“SINTEF is contributing the hydrogen supply and infrastructure, while having a test lab gives ABB and SINTEF 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. “SINTEF has extensive capabilities with regard to fuel cell technology, maritime energy systems, electric power systems and power electronics, which gives us an edge in developing innovative solutions.”

ABB will combine its software with SINTEF’s vessel simulator to imitate different diesel/battery/fuel cell combinations and ship load profiles to test the propulsion system’s performance. This will enable the companies to identify the optimal fuel cell and battery combinations and also understand the technical implications of scaling up the systems for use on passenger ships.

“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 at ABB Marine and Ports. “Finding unknowns and coping with them in a controlled environment, rather than risking surprises onboard ship will be central to these trials.”

ABB and SINTEF will also explore 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.

“We will be seeking the decisive and practical solutions to develop fuel cell technology for main propulsion,” said Kristoffer Dønnestad, research and development engineer at ABB Marine and Ports. “Research will focus not only on fuel flow and fuel handling, but also on what a hydrogen ship bunkering infrastructure might look like.”

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Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson
Monday, November 12, 2018