Test lab targets fuel cells for commercial shipping

November 26, 2018 // By Nick Flaherty
SINTEF Ocean's Norwegian test lab is starting trials of hydrogen-based fuel cells for powering commercial shipping.

The testing methodology developed at the lab in Trondheim will use two 30kW proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEM). These operate at a lower temperature, are lighter and more compact than their solid oxide counterparts.

The fuel cells will be set up to model the operation and control of a complete marine power system in a megawatt-scale propulsion plant. ABB's software will be used with vessel simulator capabilities to imitate and play back different load profiles and diesel/battery/fuel cell combinations, and tested in a scaled down laboratory environment. The trials will explore more than the technicalities of scaling-up and optimized fuel cell/battery combinations alone.

"SINTEF is contributing the hydrogen supply and infrastructure, while having a test lab gives ABB and SINTEF Ocean the opportunity to increase in-house competence for integration, control and safety of fuel cell technology in marine applications," says Anders Valland, research manager for maritime energy systems at SINTEF Ocean. "SINTEF has extensive capabilities with regard to fuel cell technology, maritime energy systems, electric power systems and power electronics, which gives us an edge in developing innovative solutions."

"Fuel cell technology is maturing quickly. These trials are expected to provide the platform for fuel cells to build on, so that they can take a position in the maritime sector that is competitive with fossil fuels," says Jostein Bogen, product manager for energy storage and fuel cells at ABB Marine & Ports. "Finding unknowns and coping with them in a controlled environment, rather than risking surprises on board ship will be central to these trials."

Another key objective will be establishing how to enhance the control of fuel cell plant in combination with energy storage, and how to optimize efficiency, reliability and the lifetime of fuel cell stacks.

"We will be seeking the decisive and practical solutions to develop fuel cell technology for main propulsion," says Kristoffer Dønnestad, R&D engineer, ABB Marine & Ports, Trondheim. "Research will focus not only on fuel flow


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