Maritime industry sees SOFC technology a decarbonisation solution

Alfa Laval (a Swedish heat solution company) announced to lead a consortium to accelerate the development of solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology by using green fuels to power ships. Under the project, ‘SOFC4Maritime’, Alfa Laval will work with DTU Energy, Haldor Topsoe, Svitzer and the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping.

It is assessed that the global shipping industry accounts for 3% of the global emission, though its share is on the rise. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) set a goal of a 50% reduction of gas emissions in the maritime industry from 2008 levels by 2050, which is only possible if zero-emission ships are deployed by 2030. The maritime sector aims to shift from fossil fuel to an alternative fuel such as hydrogen, biofuel or ammonia.

H2 Bulletin understands that decarbonisation initiative is crucial for the shipping industry because of its long life. Commerical ships typically last on average, around 20 years. Building such ships sometimes takes between one to two years. This time scale can be extended for another year if the process of designing the vessel is involved. The time can be further pushed depending on the ship orderbook. Given the current situation, some shipowners are reluctant to place any orders as they are unsure which fuel to choose for their next ship. The regulations will inflate their operating cost in the long term if they choose the wrong technology.

SOFC technology which uses solid oxide electrolyte for conducting negative oxygon from cathode to anode. The technology is ideal for shipping because it offers high efficiency with the potential of combined heat and power production. There has already been some development around the SOFC technology, particularly from Korean companies, though no solid results yet. Fuel cell technology is just dawning, and probably untested on a  large scale, particularly in a marine environment. Ships owners will likely to wait longer to make a better decision.

Ethan Mandel

Ethan is the special correspondent for Europe covering the hydrogen industry for H2 Bulletin. Please click on the email icon to contact me via email or follow me on social media. I am reachable on Phone: +44 (0) 208 123 7812
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