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FellowSHIP: Fuel Cells on the Brink of Commercialization

Now successfully installed aboard the OSV Viking Lady, fuel cell technology is one step closer to a commercial application for the maritime industry.

Launched in 2003, the FellowSHIP project began with a feasibility study and completed basic design and development of fuel cell technologies for vessels by 2005. In 2006, the JIP began development of an auxiliary electric power pack (320kW) fueled by LNG, which was successfully installed in September aboard the Viking Lady, and offshore support vessel owned by Eidesvik Offshore on charter to Total. The third and final phase of the project, intends to be testing, qualifying and demonstrating a main fuel cell electric system, delivering between 1MW to 4MW of power.

The success of the project so far has raised expectations that fuel cell technology is close to a commercial application and has resulted in a regulatory review to establish frameworks for moving the technology forward.

The FellowSHIP project was developed in response to rising concerns about the environmental impact of harmful emissions to air, including NOx, SOx, and CO2. According to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) AND University of Colorado (Boulder) study published earlier this year in the Journal of Geophysical Research, commercial ships emit almost half as much particulate matter pollutants into the air as the total amount released by the world’s cars.

The study is the first to provide a global estimate of maritime shipping’s total contribution to air particle pollution based on direct measurements of emissions. The authors estimate that globally, ships emit 0.9 teragrams, or about 2.2 million pounds, of particle pollution each year. The study also notes that since more than 70 percent of shipping traffic takes place within 250 miles of the coastline, emissions represent a significant health concern for coastal communities.

With new tougher, emissions regulations now being considered by the IMO and EU, demand for commercial alternatives to traditional onboard power systems has risen. Fuel cell technology is not expected to manage the issue alone, but the technology represents a vital piece of the puzzle in certain shipping segments, such as short sea, local port traffic, commuter ferries and cruise ships and offshore, among others. The technology may also enable vessels access to clean energy while in port.

The FellowSHIP project is a Joint Industry Project managed by Det Norske Veritas, Eidesvik Offshore, Wärtsilä Ship Power, Wärtsilä Ship Design and MTU Onsite Energy. The project has received funding from Norwegian Research Council, Innovation Norway and the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. DNV has approved the system considering all safety- and risk aspects of the installed equipment. The development of class rules for installation of fuel cells onboard is a critical part of the project.

Author: Per Wiggo Richardsen

November 3, 2009 - 5:47 PM