Image: Fuel cells for work vessels

Fuel cells for work vessels

Key component for shipping energy transition

Fuel cells are clean and efficient power generators which are increasingly being used in work vessels to power propulsion systems and on-board equipment.

Fuel cells produce electricity through a chemical reaction, rather than combustion, which means they emit no pollutants or greenhouse gases for non-carbon fuels. This makes them an attractive alternative to traditional fossil fuel-based propulsion systems on work vessels operating in sensitive environments, such as near coastlines or in ports. Fuel cells are widely considered as a key component for the energy transition.

Fuel cells now on the market use oxygen and pure hydrogen to produce electricity. Whilst oxygen comes from air, hydrogen can be stored onboard ships in pure form, or as an intermediate fuel with high hydrogen content. For example, ammonia or methane. 

The choice of fuel cell type will depend on the specific requirements of the work vessel and the operating environment. There are several types of fuel cells that can be considered for use in work vessels in the near future:

  • Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM)
  • Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC)

The technology has advanced rapidly, with especially PEM-cells now available as off-the-shelf units with certification for use on ships. The main advantages are zero emission of CO2, pollutants and noise. Further, the modular design allows for high efficiency at varying power demands.

Storage of hydrogen as an intermediate fuel will require reforming and purification on-board for use with the current crop of fuel cells. While the storage of these fuels will take less space on the vessel, the added processes will bring their own space and energy demands. We keep a close watch out for the development of low-weight solid oxide fuel cells, which will be able to generate energy from ammonia or and Oxygen directly.  

Meet emission regulations

Overall, the application of fuel cells in work vessels is a promising technology with the potential to significantly reduce the environmental impact of marine transportation. Vuyk Engineering Rotterdam has the knowledge in-house. And, with the integration of LNG and methanol and battery systems on vessels we have accrued comprehensive knowledge.

Fuel cells for work vessels

With our fast developing track record in battery systems, know-how of electrical propulsion and solid understanding of vessel operational demands, we are also your partner for the conceptual design of the new electrical systems the use of fuel cells will bring. It goes without saying that over 40 years of Naval Architecture know-how means all bases are covered when it comes to the spatial and structural integration of new energy sources, as well as implications for vessel stability. 


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