Hydrogen-powered CSV brings zero emissions closer to reality

Ulstein Design & Solutions BV and Nedstack
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As shipping moves towards decarbonisation, a ship designer and fuel-cell supplier have unveiled a new design for a zero-emissions construction support vessel

Ship designer Ulstein Design & Solutions BV and Dutch fuel-cell company Nedstack say their new hydrogen fuel-cell-powered construction support vessel (CSV) could be in the water in less than three years as it is based on existing technology. The vessel would be based on an Ulstein SX190 design vessel platform, incorporating a Nedstack fuel-cell power system.

Ulstein Design says using current technology, the SX190 design would be capable of operating four days in zero-emission mode. The ship designer contends, however, that the rapid developments in hydrogen storage and fuel-cell technologies could make future zero-emission endurance of up to two weeks possible. For extended missions and capabilities, the vessel could utilise more conventional diesel-electric propulsion using low-sulphur marine diesel oil.

Ulstein Group deputy chief executive Tore Ulstein says: “With this hydrogen-fuelled vessel, we are aiming for future zero-emission operations of long endurance.” Mr Ulstein says sea trials of a newbuild Ulstein SX190 Zero Emission could happen as soon as 2022.

The Ulstein SX190 Zero Emission design would have a total installed power of 7.5 MW, of which 2 MW would be generated by a fuel-cell power system, typically Nedstack Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells, which are located in a separate, second engineroom.

PEM fuel cells convert hydrogen and air into electric power, heat and water and produce no harmful emissions in the process. Nedstack fuel-cell systems have already been built and proven in the multi-megawatt power ranges and have now been marinised to meet the requirements of the marine industry, including class requirements and supply chains.

In April, Nedstack co-operated with Dutch ship designer OSD-IMT on the concept for a hydrogen fuel-cell-powered, 65-tonne bollard pull harbour tug concept.

Ulstein Design & Solutions product manager Ko Stroo says: “Implementing fuel-cell technology in a workhorse like the SX190 CSV design is one of the steps we take to move the marine industry into a more sustainable future.”

One of the major barriers to implementing alternative energy sources is refuelling infrastructure – the so-called ‘chicken and egg dilemma’. Without available bunkering infrastructure, clean, zero-emission fuel sources are impractical. Ulstein Design says the PEM fuel cells used in the SX190 Zero Emission design would be fuelled by hydrogen from containerised pressure vessels. These hydrogen storage containers would be loaded and unloaded by normal container-handling operations and equipment, eliminating the need for expensive bunkering infrastructure and providing worldwide operational flexibility.

Ulstein Design says the hydrogen containers can be refilled at hydrogen production sites, either from industry by-product hydrogen or green hydrogen from electrolysis, making the vessel globally employable.

Ulstein Group says the hydrogen fuel-cell-powered CSV aligns with the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ as defined by the UN Global Compact, namely reducing the environmental footprint of offshore projects, the negative impact of offshore construction vessels on local marine ecosystems, and co-operating across companies and industries to achieve synergy effects for the most sustainable solutions.

Hydrogen fuel cells are also being applied across a number of marine sectors. The European Union-funded initiative Flagships is promoting the use of zero-emissions vessels in inland and coastal shipping operations. ABB has proposed a design for a hydrogen fuel cell-powered pushboat for France’s Sogestran Group subsidiary Compagnie Fluviale de Transport (CFT), due for delivery in 2021. Funding from Flagships is also underpinning the conversion of a Norled car ferry to use hydrogen fuel cells. Both projects would source the hydrogen for their fuel cells from shore-based renewable energy, making the complete vessel energy chain emissions free.

In the US, a hydrogen fuel-cell-powered, 84-passenger ferry is being built for operation in the San Francisco Bay area. The US Maritime Administration has also backed the development of a design for a hydrogen fuel cell-powered research vessel.

Using currently available PEM fuel cells, the CSV could operate emissions free for four days
 

Using currently available PEM fuel cells, the CSV could operate emissions free for four days