The ShipFC project has been awarded funding from the EU’s research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, under the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU).
The ShipFC project will equip the offshore supply vessel Viking Energy, owned and operated by Eidesvik and on contract to energy major Equinor, with a 2 MW ammonia fuel cell allowing it to operate for at least 3,000 hours annually on clean fuel. Following the completion of that phase, the project will ramp up to qualifying 20 MW fuel cell solutions for ocean-going vessels.
“The ultimate goal of the project is to demonstrate the feasibility of ammonia fuel cells for ocean-going vessels and long sea voyages,” said Dr Michail Cheliotis, research associate at the University of Strathclyde, lead partner in the project. “Once the first phase of the project is completed, that is when the fun starts.”
The project will consider three replicator vessel types, including a bulk vessel, an offshore construction vessel, and a container ship. Cheliotis said that the work would involve close cooperation with replicator vessel owners and a thorough examination of vessel requirements.
Technical and economic knowledge developed in the Viking Energy pilot will be incorporated in a broader analysis of ammonia in the maritime sector and comparison with other alternative fuels.
“Ammonia presents certain technical challenges, but even though it is corrosive, the safety trade-off between ammonia and hydrogen favours ammonia,” explained Cheliotis. “It is less explosive, requires less complex storage and transport solutions, and it is a well-known commodity from industry. Based on this experience, the necessary safeguards can be built in.”
The project will also examine the ammonia supply chain. “We will be looking at the entire life cycle of ammonia, from production to transport and bunkering.
“Ammonia can easily be made from renewable resources, making it one of the fuels that will likely meet part of shipping’s future green energy demand.”
Interest in ammonia-powered fuel cells for the maritime sector is certainly growing, and Cheliotis believes that the technology is becoming more common. “Stories of success from other projects in road and rail are getting media attention… Now we want to take advantage of fuel cell momentum and examine the use of ammonia in addition to hydrogen,” he said.