ABB and Ballard gain approval in principle for fuel cell concept

Firms aim to install solution on large ships within next couple of years after DNV confirms design is feasible

ABB and Ballard gain approval in principle for fuel cell concept


ABB and Ballard's new high-power fuel cell concept could be installed on large ships in the next couple of years

By Rebecca Gibson |

ABB and Ballard Power Systems (Ballard) have received an approval in principle (AiP) from classification society DNV for their new high-power fuel cell concept, which is being developed for commercial use onboard large passenger ships and other vessels.

Ballard, which provides proton exchange membrane fuel cell solutions, and ABB started the project in June 2018 and have developed a fuel cell concept capable of generating three megawatts of electrical power by turning the chemical energy from hydrogen into electricity via an electrochemical reaction.

Zero-emission hydrogen fuel cells are already powering smaller vessels over short distances and the AiP confirms that ABB and Ballard’s new concept is feasible and there are “no significant obstacles” to prevent it from becoming a reality. The two companies now aim to complete the solution for application onboard a diverse range of vessels within the next couple of years.

The fuel cell solution, which is being designed to integrate with an energy storage system, would enable a ferry with a regular schedule and frequent bunkering opportunities could operate solely on fuel cell power. Meanwhile, a cruise ship operating in coastal areas could either run entirely on fuel cell power, or switch to it when sailing in environmentally sensitive areas or emission control zones. In addition, fuel cells could be used to support auxiliary needs for ocean-going vessels.

“ABB’s industry-leading experience in marine solutions and Ballard’s expertise in development and deployment of megawatt-scale fuel cell systems for land-based use has proven to be the right combination, enabling us to take the next step in our joint efforts to make this technology available for larger vessels,” said Jesper Themsen, president and CEO of Ballard Power Systems Europe. “Securing an AiP offers a signpost to the maritime industry regarding the potential of this truly transformative concept.”

ABB is also collaborating with customers and partners – such as Swiss utility company Axpo and Canada-based sustainable energy conversion company Hydrogen Optimized – to develop and integrate technology that will make hydrogen accessible and affordable for the maritime industry.

“This AiP is an important milestone in making high-power fuel cells commercially available, and it underpins our commitment to bring new levels of efficiency, reliability and sustainability to the global shipping industry,” said Juha Koskela, division president for ABB Marine & Ports. “As we continue to pave the way towards decarbonising shipping, we are confident that vessel electrification, including fuel cell technology, will play a pivotal role in helping the marine industry achieve its environmental targets.”

Hydrogen is considered among the most promising technologies available to help the maritime industry to enable the maritime industry to meet the International Maritime Organization’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships by at least 50 per cent by 2050, compared to 2008 levels.

“We are pleased to have worked with ABB and Ballard on this AiP,” said Tuva Flagstad-Andersen, regional manager for North Europe at DNV Maritime. “Hydrogen plays an important role in the energy transition, so it is essential to establish safe technologies that the industry has confidence in. As an early phase verification for new design concepts, based on long-standing, trusted and independent standards, an AIP can help build this confidence.”


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