TECHNOLOGY group Wärtsilä is supporting a fuel cell project currently underway in Norway.

Wärtsilä aims to research the use of future carbon-neutral fuels for use in marine engines, and is active in investigating alternative means for eliminating emissions, including using fuel cells.

The main partners in the project are Odfjell, a shipping operator; Prototech, a specialist company in fuel cell technology; and Lundin, an offshore oil & gas company.

Wärtsilä has led the way in developing hybrid propulsion solutions utilising both conventional engines and energy storage for ferries and harbour vessels. This allows emissions-free sailing when close to population centres.

However, for long-distance ocean-going vessels, current battery technology does not provide sufficient energy storage for the entire voyage. The Norwegian project is testing the use of fuel cell technology as a means for overcoming this limitation.

Preliminary results from the testing indicate that CO2 reductions of as much as 40 to 45% are possible when using LNG as fuel, and emissions can potentially be reduced even further with other fuels, such as ammonia.

“We see the combustion engine remaining as the stalwart of shipping, because it has the flexibility to operate on future renewable fuels as and when they become compliant, market-ready and available,” said Ingve Sørfonn, technology manager at Wärtsilä Marine Power.

“However, we are keen to support all efforts and innovations aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of shipping, and we see this fuel cell project as being an important contribution to this effort.”

The project’s fuel cell technology is first being tested with a 1.2 MW prototype at the Sustainable Energy Catapult Centre in Stord, Norway. The facility was visited by Norway’s Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, on 1 October and a presentation was given on the work and goals of the project. Later, the prototype will be installed onboard an Odjfell chemical tanker for sea trials.

The project has thus far been funded by Gassnova, the Norwegian state enterprise for carbon capture and storage, and by the participants.