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DSME Moves Ahead With Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell Systems

solid oxide fuel cell dsme
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Published Jan 21, 2021 4:09 PM by The Maritime Executive

DSME is following in the footsteps of its compatriots at Samsung Heavy Industries in the development of solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology for auxiliary power.

SOFC technology is relatively new to maritime, but it is not new on shore. One of the leading vendors of SOFC units, Bloom Energy, has installed about 375 megawatts' worth of SOFC power capacity in stationary applications sincde 2006. Bloom is Samsung Heavy Industry's technology partner in its effort to design and develop SOFC systems for shipping, and the goal is somewhat ambitious: "to replace all existing main engines and generator engines . . . to align with the IMO's 2030 and 2050 environmental targets," according to SHI's vice president of shipping sales engineering, Haeki Jang.

SOFCs can consume a variety of hydrogen-containing fuels, stripping out the H2 in a reforming process and reacting it with oxygen to generate electrical power. They can be designed to run on distillate fuels, ethanol, natural gas or ammonia - unlike proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells, which cannot directly use fuels other than pure hydrogen. They have a thermal efficiency in the range of 60 percent, about 10 percentage points better than the most efficient two-stroke diesels, and can achieve 70-plus percent efficiency when combined with a waste heat recovery system.

DSME is taking an incremental approach: it is working with the American Bureau of Shipping on a project to replace one of the three auxiliary engines typically found aboard a VLCC with solid oxide fuel cell technology. ABS has issued an AIP for the conceptual design, the two partners said in a statement Thursday. 

"We have completed the conceptual design, including how to effectively deploy fuel cell systems in a limited space and utilize them safely through joint development projects with ABS, and these joint research results will serve as a cornerstone for future design and test evaluation," said DSME executive vice president Dr. Dong-kyu Choi. 

“Fuel cells are an important technology in the development of next generation marine propulsion systems and can make a significant contribution to the industry’s decarbonization ambitions. We are proud to be able to support DSME in developing this system and realizing its potential,” said Patrick Ryan, ABS Senior Vice President, Global Engineering and Technology.

A slew of other industry partnerships have been formed over the past few years to research SOFC applications, including the Maersk/Alfa Laval initiative SOFC4Maritime, thyssenkrupp's MultiSchIBZ, and a joint venture between DNV and Hyundai Heavy Industries.