Fuel cells will be a future option for cruise ships and ferries, especially through decentralised energy production on ships, says Bureau Veritas' Andreas Ullrich
The advent of the new emissions regulation of 2020 will drive the deployment of fuel cells in the cruise ship sector, and lead to more decentralised power arrangements on vessels, said Bureau Veritas (BV) global market leader passenger ship and ferries Andreas Ullrich.
BV is supporting owners across all ship types to meet the 2020 low sulphur directive and thinking about the industry's ambitions to decarbonise. Alternative fuel and energy supply arrangements, such as fuel cells, will be part of the solution to reduce emissions. Examples of work in this respect include the classification of Ponant’s LNG-fuelled icebreaker, being built at Vard shipyard and due for delivery in 2021. It is also classing MSC Cruises’ LNG dual-fuelled World-class series.
Mr Ullrich said “The 2020 and 2050 regulations are a huge challenge. LNG and hybrid energy solutions, such as fuel cell applications, will provide a pathway to compliance and compliance plus.” While not currently available, he said that he was “very confident” that fuel cell applications would be used in future.
Expanding, he said “At the moment, the best fuels for 2020 compliance are LNG and low sulphur fuel, but I am hoping that biofuels enter the mix. There was a lot of research into fuel cells during the oil crisis in the 1980s, then this was dropped. But the new 2020 requirements mean this is popping up again. The large cruise liners such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean are looking at fuel cells, and Viking Line is also looking into the technology.”
Mr Ullrich said he is keen for the industry to use fuel cells, especially if they use hydrogen or fuels produced from renewable energy. “They produce zero CO2, and if produced from renewable energy, there is no NOx, SOx or particulate matter.”
But Mr Ullrich believes it will be a while before fuel cells can be produced from renewable energy, even though research projects are underway. “If produced from renewable energy, it will take a long time as the output from the fuel cells needs to be improved.” He added that the biggest challenge of hydrogen-produced renewable energy is storage because it is flammable and explosive. Legislation will be required to allow the use of such fuels and is already under consideration.
One area he singled out as seeing fuel cells playing a role is through decentralising energy production on cruise ships and ferries.
He elaborated “Generators and battery packs are not necessarily located in the same place and may have different applications, such as deploying batteries for peak shaving or when in port. I could see that fuel cells would be used in the same way.”
Mr Ullrich believes that battery use is a fast-growing area that will have more potential in future. “There are challenges with the cost, weight and power output of battery packs” he said. “But batteries are developing very fast and power output is increasing, battery lifetimes are increasing, and costs are going down.”
He highlighted that currently LNG is seen as a major way to be compliant with 2020 and all the major cruise lines are ordering gas-fuelled newbuilds. Nevertheless, it will be a while before many expedition cruise ships consider this as a strong option. “Expedition cruise ships do not consider it a good option because of availability. Development might come but it is always a question of chicken and egg – who is first?”
An exception to this is Ponant’s LNG icebreaker. As well as being LNG-fuelled and the first cruise ship icebreaker, another reason it stands out is that it will deploy a membrane tank – Mr Ullrich noted that this is the first time such a tank will be used on a cruise ship. He said “Membrane tanks can hold a larger LNG volume in the same space. So far, most cruise ships have chosen type C pressure tanks.”
He summed up “There is no single solution to meet all requirements [to meet the 2020 directive]. Cruise ship and ferry operators need to look at their operational profile and availability of fuel.”