ABB, SINTEF and Fiskerstrand Test Fuel Cells for the World’s First Conversion of a Hydrogen Hybrid Ferry

By April 3, 2019 3   min read  (591 words)

April 3, 2019 |

Concept sketch of a hydrogen hybrid ferry. Image credit Fiskerstrand Holding

The tests will seek to provide answers needed for Norwegian shipyard Fiskerstrand to convert an existing ferry to run on a combination of batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.

ABB and the SINTEF Ocean laboratory in Trondheim will assess how fuel cells and batteries can best function together for short-distance ferry operations, and how Fiskerstrand can integrate them with other engine room systems. The tests will also provide insight into the introduction of hydrogen fuel cells for future reviews of the rules covering shipboard use of hydrogen.

The tests will simulate the conditions the ferry is expected to encounter on a high frequency 10km route to ensure that the propulsion systems including fuel cells are robust enough for repetitive, short-burst service duties.

“We expect to get a realistic view of what we need to do to achieve our objectives in delivering a ferry equipped with hydrogen fuel cell propulsion as part of our HYBRIDship project,” says Kåre Nerem, Project Manager, Fiskerstrand. “ABB’s system integration know-how, combined with SINTEF Ocean’s long-standing experience in the field of marine propulsion systems, as well as SINTEF Industry’s expertise in fuel cells technology will be key in solving the challenges ahead. This is a pioneering project, and together we will ensure the solution is optimized for the specific ferry route and vessel.”

The HYBRIDship project, started in 2017 and driven by Fiskerstrand Holding, is supported by Norway’s “Pilot-E” technology accelerator program funded by the Research Council of Norway, Innovation Norway and Enova Norwegian government enterprise. The project is envisaging a zero-emissions passenger ship retrofitted with fuel cells operating on a domestic route by the end of 2020.

“The project is a major step towards the practical use of the hydrogen fuel cell as a maritime propulsion technology,” says Jostein Bogen, product manager for energy storage and fuel cells at ABB Marine & Ports. “Fuel cells combined with batteries are an important part of ABB’s ‘Electric. Digital. Connected.’ vision for a sustainable maritime future. The true significance of these tests will be in defining the optimum engine room configuration for hydrogen fuel cells to be installed and work day-in, day-out with other systems on board.”

ABB first invested in SINTEF Ocean’s hybrid marine laboratory in 2014, recently strengthening its collaborative commitment by injecting a second round of funding to expand the laboratory’s facilities for future development work. “Together with the Norwegian Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Test Centre hosted by SINTEF Industry, the extended hybrid lab will help us to further develop, validate and optimize control strategies for advanced maritime energy system” says Anders Valland, Research manager for maritime energy systems at SINTEF Ocean.

“These facilities have become an important catalyst for the ongoing evolution of hydrogen-based power generation,” comments Bogen. “The ability to carry out real-life testing of different configurations accelerates the development process and ensures we arrive at an optimized solution that satisfies vessel design criteria and operational profile.”

Hydrogen fuel cells are regarded as a promising option for radically reducing vessel greenhouse gas emissions. Combined with more established shipboard battery technology, they have the capability to enhance energy density in zero-emission marine operations while also improving vessel endurance.

The joint ABB/SINTEF development program will also focus on finding solutions to support the hydrogen supply and bunkering infrastructure. In addition, outputs from the new tests are expected to accelerate Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA) work in modifying regulations to better accommodate and approve hydrogen as a fuel.

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