Norwegian Design for Green Ammonia Fuel Cell Coaster Receives Approval

Norwegian zero emission coaster using green ammonia
ZeroCoaster in its latest design uses ab alkaline fuel cell with ammonia cracker and fuel storage (AFC Energy)

Published Dec 1, 2021 2:29 PM by The Maritime Executive

A Norwegian project to develop a new generation of zero-emission bulk cargo ships is proceeding with the finalization of elements of the design and awarding of an Approval in Principle from DNV. The classification society reviewed the designs for a modularized bulk cargo ship propulsion system fueled with alkaline fuel cells and green ammonia. According to the participants, they believe that the project is “opening the door to the use of green ammonia to decarbonize the maritime market.” 

The project is being sponsored by the Norwegian government as part of its efforts to support the development of a new generation of coastal vessels. A competition was launched with the government highlighting that to meet the 2030 decarbonization targets for the shipping industry, Norway alone is expected to require 1,100 zero or low emission ships, including 450 bulk carrier cargo ships. In the spring of 2021, it was announced that 31 shipowners had bid on the project and that a winning concept had been selected.

That concept envisioned combining wind energy with a hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engine. The vessel, which they said would operate mostly in the North Sea, was also to be fitted with two wind rotor sails located fore and aft. The rotors appear to be altered in later designs.

With the support of the Research Council of Norway, Vard along with a range of companies including DNV and ABB joined with overall project participants include Trosvik Maritime, SINTEF Ocean, HK Shipping, and Flowchange, to further research future solutions for shortsea shipping. According to the partners, the research resulted in a new understanding of how the energy mix and requirements for zero emissions affect ship design and future transportation solutions.

The ZeroCoaster design features a scalable hull and power system that is ready for battery, hydrogen, ammonia, methanol, and LNG to power fully electric propulsion. The vessel will have a load capacity within 4,000 to 5,000 dwt taking mostly bulk and volume loads. The current concept design is for a vessel that would be approximately 325 feet long. Operating at speeds of 8 to 12 knots, the vessel would have a range of 600 to 2,000 nautical miles suited for the Nordic region and Europe. 

In June 2021, AFC Energy joined the project focusing on the propulsion system fueled with green ammonia. The design reviewed by DNV uses ammonia and a high-energy dense alkaline fuel cell technology. AFC Energy believes this is the first time an alkaline fuel cell with ammonia cracker and fuel storage has received this approval for the maritime market. 

The technology chosen for the ship's 1.2MW capacity is AFC Energy's new "S" Series heavy-duty marinized platform, which is expected to host 2 x 600kW of alkaline fuel cell systems plus ammonia cracking technology within modular 40-foot containers.

According to the team working on developing the ZeroCoaster, the awarding of the AiP confirms an independent assessment that the ship's design is feasible and there are no obstacles to the design being commercially realized. VARD will now commence commercial discussions with prospective customers for the purchase of new ammonia-fueled ships, featuring AFC Energy's marinized fuel cell and cracker module. The team previously said they were targeting 2024 for the first vessel to enter operation.