Swiss-Swedish electronic manufacturing giant ABB has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with French hydrogen technologies specialist Hydrogène de France to jointly manufacture megawatt-scale hydrogen fuel cell systems for ocean-going vessels.
As industry and nations around the globe look for ways to transition to a more sustainable means of energy and power, the global shipping industry – accounting for 2.5% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions – is under increasing pressure to similarly transition to more sustainable power sources.
The UN’s International Maritime Organization, responsible for regulating global shipping, has set a global target to cut annual emissions by at least 50% by 2050 based on 2008 levels.
As such, shipping and technology companies are looking for ways to cut emissions for ocean-going vessels – a bigger task than simply sticking a battery into your hatchback.
Hydrogen – specifically green hydrogen, which is hydrogen made using renewable energy to power the hydrolysis process – is one of the most favoured options for transitioning the shipping sector to a more sustainable power sources, with hydrogen fuel cells converting its chemical energy into electricity through an electrochemical reaction.
Currently, hydrogen fuel cells are already capable of powering ships sailing short distances, as well as supporting the auxiliary energy requirements of larger ocean-going vessels.
The new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between ABB and Hydrogène de France (HDF) builds on a separate collaboration signed in mid-2018 between ABB and Ballard Power Systems, the leading global provider of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell solutions.
Specifically, ABB and HDF plan to optimise fuel cell manufacturing capabilities to build a megawatt-scale power plant for ocean-going vessels. The ABB/HDF system will be based on the megawatt-scale fuel cell power plant which was jointly developed between ABB and Ballard, and will be manufactured at HDF’s new facility in Bordeaux, France.
“HDF is very excited to cooperate with ABB to assemble and produce megawatt-scale fuel cell systems for the marine market based on Ballard technology,” said Damien Havard, CEO of HDF.
“With the ever-increasing demand for solutions that enable sustainable, responsible shipping, we are confident that fuel cells will play an important role in helping the marine industry meet CO2 reduction targets,” said Juha Koskela, Managing Director, ABB Marine & Ports. “Signing the MOU with HDF brings us a step closer to making this technology available for powering ocean-going vessels.”
The ABB and Ballard fuel cell power system was designed to create an electrical generating capacity of 3MW (or 4,000 HP) and fit within a single module no larger than a traditional marine engine.
The resulting fuel cell uses proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEM) to convert the chemical energy from hydrogen into electricity, and involves no combustion, converting fuel directly into electricity, heat, and clean water.
“This MoU is a significant next step in our ongoing relationship with ABB, the innovative market leader in marine solutions,” said Rob Campbell, Chief Commercial Officer at Ballard Power Systems, back in 2018.
“The rapidly evolving marine market represents an exciting growth opportunity for zero-emission fuel cell technology.
And, Ballard’s prior development and deployment of megawatt-scale containerized PEM fuel cell systems for land-based use gives us the critical experience and knowledge to collaborate effectively on the development of clean energy solutions for key marine market applications.”
ABB and Ballard followed up their 2018 partnership last year with the announcement they would work to develop and launch a zero-emission river boat to push river barges, planned for deployment in France in 2021.
Ballard congratulated both ABB and HDF on their commitment, expressing the companies’ commitment to making fuel cell technology work for the shipping sector.
“We are delighted by the commitment exhibited at ABB toward the use of large-scale fuel cell systems for the marine market, underpinned by the collaboration work that has been underway between our two companies since 2018,” said Rob Campbell, Ballard’s Chief Commercial Officer.
“In addition, Ballard has been working with HDF Energy on stationary applications of our fuel cell technology. As a result, we are certainly pleased that HDF Energy’s production facility in Bordeaux will be capable of supporting ABB’s maritime initiatives.
The MOU between ABB and HDF Energy also enhances Ballard’s market position with respect to emerging marine opportunities for clean energy fuel cell solutions.”