Technology firm ABB and fuel cell supplier Ballard Power Systems have received an Approval in Principle (AiP) from classification society DNV for their high-power fuel cell concept, reaching a ‘major’ milestone in developing new technology.

The concept is a result of the companies’ partnership launched in 2018. According to ABB, the AiP confirms that the design is feasible without significant obstacles preventing the realisation of the concept.

By obtaining the approval, the solution is expected to be completed within the next couple of years for application onboard a wide range of vessels.

Fuel cell concept
Image by ABB

As described, the high-power fuel cell unit is a flexible solution that will support the energy needs of a diverse range of vessels requiring multiple 3 MW blocks of power.

For instance, a cruise vessel operating in coastal areas could either run entirely on fuel cell power or switch to it when operating in environmentally sensitive areas or emission control zones, while a ferry with a regular schedule and frequent bunkering opportunities could operate solely on fuel cell power.

For ocean-going vessels, fuel cell power could support auxiliary needs. The concept of the solution also envisions the integration with an energy storage system.

We are pleased to have worked with ABB and Ballard on this AiP”, said Tuva Flagstad-Andersen, regional manager North Europe, DNV Maritime. “Hydrogen plays an important role in the energy transition, so it is essential to establish safe technologies that the industry has confidence in.”

Juha Koskela, division president, ABB Marine & Ports, remarked: “This AiP is an important milestone in making high-power fuel cells commercially available, and it underpins our commitment to bring new levels of efficiency, reliability and sustainability to the global shipping industry.

“As we continue to pave the way towards decarbonising shipping, we are confident that vessel electrification, including fuel cell technology, will play a pivotal role in helping the marine industry achieve its environmental targets.”

As demand for hydrogen keeps growing, ABB joined forces with Hydrogène de France to manufacture megawatt-scale fuel cell systems capable of powering ocean-going vessels.

Furthermore, the company’s business unit ABB Marine & Ports signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Maritime Partners (MP), Elliott Bay Design Group (EBDG) and e1 Marine to develop a hydrogen-powered inland towboat for operation in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Ballard delivered two, 200 kilowatt (kW) fuel cell modules to Norwegian ferry operator Norled to power the world’s first liquid hydrogen-powered ferry, the MF Hydra, later this year.

The company also recently tested a fuel cell powered by liquid hydrogen with Chart Industries. 

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