The FellowSHIP project wants ships fueled by natural gas and run by fuel cells rather than diesel and combustion engines. That this is a real possibility was amply proven when they presented a model of such a ship during NRK Norwegian Television’s prime time broadcast on September 19th.
Among the foremost enthusiasts behind the new fuel system project are Eidesvik Offshore and DNV (Det Norske Veritas). Together with several large actors they recently established the industrial project FellowSHIP, whose aim it is to develop a fully integrated hybrid fuel cell system for ships.
The Bellona Foundation has contributed to the environmental project as well. In 2001 they entered into a partnership with Eidesvik with the intention of developing eco-friendly fuel systems for sea transport. Bellona leader Frederic Hauge is very pleased with the state of things.
“This is an extremely exiting project, of which I am very proud to be a part,” Hauge said.
What is currently being done in the maritime sector and the oil and energy sectors is trendsetting. The development of such ships should become a major area of commitment for Norwegian industry and Norwegian authorities, he adds.
One ship, 22,000 cars
Gas and fuel cell run ships will revolutionize the shipping industry. The total NOx discharge from Norwegian owned ships constitutes as much as 40 percent of our total national emissions. One single supply vessel, operating at the Norwegian oil installations offshore spews out the same amount of NOx as 22,000 cars. According to the Gothenburg protocol, which entered into effect May 17th, 2005, Norway is legally obliged to reduce its total emissions of NOx to an amount not exceeding 156,00 tons annually by 2010.
It is, in other words, about time someone took this problem seriously.
In exchange for the diesel engine
The first steps toward this new era for the shipping industry was taken in 2003, when the first gas driven supply vessel was launched by the shipping company Eidesvik Offshore ASA. With natural gas as a propellant, the ship’s NOx emissions were 89 percent lower than the corresponding levels for diesel fueled ships. In addition the CO2 emissions were reduced by 23 percent. This is a significant environmental gain to be derived from a transition to gas as a propellant.
The Eidesvik shipping company recently placed the order for their third gas driven vessel. This is the ship that will be the “guinea pig” vessel for the new technology based on fuel cells running on natural gas. Fuel cell generators will replace the diesel engines, which will result in a 50 percent reduction of CO2 emissions, and the NOx emissions being practically eliminated altogether. In addition the efficiency level of a fuel cell is high; 57 percent compared to 37 percent for a traditional diesel driven combustion engine.
Got the solution
“Our assignment in this partnership has been to get grips on maritime use of the fuel cell technology,” said Kjell Sandaker at Eidesvik Offshore.
“Movement, sea air, salt, and vibrations – all this demands a ‘marinization’ of the fuel cell technology. The fuel cells have their own characteristics, as have the ship’s systems. Our focus has been on the bridging of the two systems and their characteristics, so the ships will be provides with sufficient power, Sandaker said.
“We have shown that we hold the solutions necessary for launching this technology on a larger scale, Thomas Tronstad from DNV to NRK. The amusing thing about this project is that the main challenge isn’t a technological one, but a financial one,” he added.
In the longer run the Eidesvik shipping company has planned to build ships completely based on fuel cell technology, but the realization of these plans is still a good distance in the future. In an interview with the paper BØMLOnytt earlier this year, the vice-CEO of Eidesvik Offshore, Jan Lodden, said that it is too early to set the time for when such a ship can be expected.
If the Norwegian government is serious about their environmental commitments, they now have an excellent opportunity to turn theory into practice and make sure this project gets ample public funding. Then we might be able to hope that we can meet our obligations and achieve the emission cuts we have committed ourselves to.