Accelerating Development of Maritime Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Technology

accelerating the development of solid oxide fuel cells for maritime applications
Serval projects are exploring the use of fuel cells including a test aboard the Viking Energy (NCE Maritime Cleantech illustration)

Published Jan 18, 2021 4:31 PM by The Maritime Executive

A joint project with contributions from leaders in the maritime industry is looking to combine their different perspectives to accelerate the development and implementation of solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology. Funded by a grant from Danish EUDP (Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Program), the project will pursue a high-efficiency solution with the scalability to support marine industry decarbonization. The project, SOFC4Maritime, will target the optimal utilization of future green fuels via the application of SOFCs for power production on marine vessels. 

To accelerate the development of viable technologies, a coordinated effort within applied research is needed across the entire supply chain. As such, the partners for this project include Svitzer, Alfa Laval, DTU, Haldor Topsøe, and the Maersk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping. They believe that when based on fuels such as ammonia, hydrogen, or bio-methane, SOFCs hold great promise as a replacement for today’s fossil fuels.

By electrochemically converting fuel into electricity, SOFCs can potentially produce power with higher efficiency than internal combustion engines running on the same fuel - without creating polluting emissions or particulates. The research will start with ammonia-based SOFCs as they believe that they are especially attractive since ammonia can be produced on a large scale using renewable electricity and no biomass resource. 

Achieving the long-term target of decarbonization requires new fuel types and systemic change within the industry, the partners said in announcing their new collaboration. They noted that because shipping is globally regulated, it provides an opportunity to secure broad-based adoption of new technology and fuels. However, they also recognize that new legislation will be needed to enable the transition.

Alfa Laval will head the development initiative working with Haldor Topsoe that will provide the underlying SOFC stack technology and DTU Energy which will support with system layout and component testing. Svitzer will bring a shipowner perspective, focusing on elements such as size, environmental requirements, operating profiles, simulations, test protocols, maintenance, and safety to ensure a successful implementation when the technology is fully developed. The Maersk McKinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping will ensure a broad industry overview, end-to-end analysis of various energy pathways, and a detailed techno-economic analysis.

The project will run over the next two years, from 2021 through 2022. The first demonstration of the project will initially be on-shore on a laboratory scale, but designed from the start with the end-perspective of being suitable for maritime application in terms of materials, durability, and in a compact design - all with the future cost in mind. Furthermore, the project will explore the full roadmap for how this technical solution will be able to outcompete conventional solutions and enable a significant reduction of the required renewable power for maritime decarbonization over the next three to four decades.