Hydrogen Fuel for Zero Emission Cruise Ships

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

March 24, 2019

Pic: GE Power Conversion

Pic: GE Power Conversion

General Electric’s (GE) Power Conversion business and Nedstack, Dutch fuel cell manufacturer, have entered into a partnership to develop hydrogen fuel cell systems for powering zero-emission cruise vessels.

The two companies envisage using this technology on passenger ships, replacing traditional diesel engines with fuel cells, and heavy fuel oil (HFO) with hydrogen.

"This partnership brings together GE’s recognized expertise in cruise electrical power and propulsion solutions plus system integration capability, with Nedstack’s extensive experience in megawatt-scale hydrogen fuel cell technology. The result will be highly efficient fuel cell solutions that enable a zero-emission cruise industry," said a press release from the fuel cell technology company.

The cruise industry shares a joint responsibility to eliminate the possible negative impacts it might have on port communities, the health of passengers and staff, and on the environment as a whole. Responsible zero-emission shipping is not only environmentally needed but will greatly contribute to the quality of the cruise experience itself.

Shipowners are already under pressure to comply with the reduced sulfur limit regulations coming into force next year. Both global International Maritime Organization (IMO) and regional regulations require marine vessels to reduce emissions or eliminate them altogether.

“Existing clean power solutions are focused on reducing emissions. Eliminating emissions altogether demands a paradigm shift,” Arnoud van de Bree, CEO of Nedstack says. “Hence why GE and Nedstack have been working extensively on the ‘marinization’ of fuel cell technology to create a total zero-emission alternative that truly meets the needs of tomorrow’s cruise industry.”

“We’re proud to be working with Nedstack on what we believe will be a game changer for the cruise industry,” said Ed Torres, CEO of Marine and O&G, GE’s Power Conversion business. “This partnership brings together a rich pool of expertise that’s spearheading much needed innovation. Given the marine transport and shipping sector’s changing regulatory landscape, this innovation could not be more timely.”

GE and Nedstack envisage using this technology on passenger ships, replacing traditional diesel engines with fuel cells, and heavy fuel oil (HFO) with hydrogen.

So far, Nedstack and GE have designed the concept for a two megawatt hydrogen fuel cell power plant on an expedition vessel. The review result has been highly positive and plausible. The ultimate goal is a truly zero-emission system that will enable the world’s first sustainable, clean cruise ships.

GE’s variable speed electrical drive system is a crucial part of the system that optimizes control and efficiency by directing and managing the electricity produced by the hydrogen fuel cells.

Frequently switching fuel cells on and off reduces their life expectancy – and this is a significant issue for vessels. To give some perspective, while a car’s fuel cell is expected to operate for 7,000 hours, for a ship it needs to go over 20,000 hours.

Machine longevity is essential. To overcome this, GE’s variable drive, fuel cell system architecture and dedicated PMS are engineered to limit the switch on-and-off frequency of the fuel cells when sailing or in port. Indeed, optimizing the system and extending the fuel cells’ lifespan is key to coping with the five-year dry dock intervals that cruise ships demand.

Nedstack and GE have designed a concept for a multi-megawatt hydrogen power plant for passenger vessels. The built-in redundancy and its scalability are promising.

“Ships are increasingly being required to shut down their engines in port. We’ve seen this in California, for example, and China has introduced an emission control area in the Yangtse delta. However, the trend is shifting from emissions reduction to total elimination. Achieving this will take deep expertise and innovation – and that’s precisely what this collaboration between GE and Nedstack will deliver,” says Azeez Mohammed, President and CEO, GE’s Power Conversion business.

Maritime Reporter Magazine Cover Apr 2019 - Navies of the World

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