Shipping is faced with the need to meet the IMO’s ambition to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. With this in mind, an important project is underway in Norway to further develop fuel cell technology to enable the use of different fuels, as one method for addressing the IMO’s challenge.
The technology group Wärtsilä, an industry leader in the development of smart solutions for the global marine sector, is supporting the fuel cell project currently underway in Norway. Wärtsilä is committed to researching the use of future carbon-neutral fuels for viable use in marine engines, and is active in investigating alternative means for eliminating emissions, including the use of fuel cells. The main partners in the project are Odfjell, a major shipping operator, Prototech, a specialist company in fuel cell technology, and Lundin, a leading offshore oil & gas company. As the leader in marine propulsion technology, Wärtsilä is participating in the project with expert support.
Wärtsilä has led the way in developing hybrid propulsion solutions utilising both conventional engines and energy storage for ferries and harbour vessels. This allows emissions-free sailing when close to population centres. However, for long-distance ocean-going vessels, current battery technology does not provide sufficient energy storage for the entire voyage. The Norwegian project is testing the use of fuel cell technology as a means for overcoming this limitation. Preliminary results from the testing indicate that CO2 reductions of as much as 40 to 45 percent are possible when using LNG as fuel, and emissions can potentially be reduced even further with other fuels, such as ammonia.
“Greater efficiency and increased sustainability are at the core of Wärtsilä’s Smart Marine Ecosystem vision. We see the combustion engine remaining as the stalwart of shipping, because it has the flexibility to operate on future renewable fuels as and when they become compliant, market-ready and available. However, we are keen to support all efforts and innovations aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of shipping, and we see this fuel cell project as being an important contribution to this effort,” says Ingve Sørfonn, Technology Manager at Wärtsilä Marine Power.
The project’s fuel cell technology is first being tested with a 1.2 MW prototype at the Sustainable Energy Catapult Centre in Stord, Norway. The facility was visited by Norway’s Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, on October 1 and a presentation was given on the work and goals of the project. Later, the prototype will be installed onboard an Odjfell chemical tanker for sea trials.
The project has thus far been funded by Gassnova, the Norwegian state enterprise for carbon capture and storage, and by the participants.