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Passenger Ship Technology

Hydrogen fuel cells provide emissions-free power generation for ferries

Thu 19 Jul 2018 by Ed Martin

Hydrogen fuel cells provide emissions-free power generation for ferries
Water-Go-Round will carry enough hydrogen to operate for two days continuously

An innovative project in California is testing the suitability of fuel cells for marine use, writes Ed Martin

The first commercial fuel-cell ferry in the world, Water-Go-Round, will use hydrogen fuel-cells provided by Ontario, Canada-based Hydrogenics to generate power.

With a targeted launch date of 2019, the company behind the ferry, Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine (GGZEM) intends the vessel to be “a demonstration to the commercial and regulatory community at large” and its performance will be monitored by Sandia National Laboratories, one of the US Government’s National Nuclear Security Administration research and administration labs. The project was awarded a US$3M grant by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in June 2018.

The 21 m aluminium catamaran will have a capacity of 84 passengers and was designed by Incat Crowther; it will be built by San Francisco-based Bay Ship and Yacht. The vessel has a top speed of 22 knots and will be powered by 360 kW-worth of Hydrogenics fuel cells, alongside lithium-ion battery packs. It will carry a 264 kg tank array of 250-bar compressed hydrogen, allowing for up to two full days of operation. Propulsion will come from two 300 kW shaft motors, while 100 kWh batteries in the vessels hulls will boost power to achieve full speed.

Following its launch, Water-Go-Round will undergo a three-month study period in San Francisco Bay, during which time Sandia National Laboratories will gather and assess performance data. CARB will use this data to assess the suitability of the technology for wider marine use.

A fuel cell comprises an anode, a cathode and an electrolyte membrane and functions by hydrogen being passed through the anode and oxygen through the cathode. Hydrogen molecules are split at the anode into electrons and protons, with the protons passing through the electrolyte membrane and electrons being forced through a circuit, generating a current and excess heat. Protons, electrons and oxygen combine at the cathode to produce water molecules. The technology allows hydrogen to be directly converted to power with zero emissions.

A hydrogen-battery hybrid system was chosen over a purely electric system as it affords greater flexibility, with Water-Go-Round’s website describing hydrogen fuel cell technology as “the best zero emissions technology for commercial maritime operators to maintain operational flexibility, commercial viability and regulatory compliance”. Other benefits of fuel cells include their lack of moving parts, resulting in near-silent operation, and scalability, meaning that fuel cells can be “stacked” and combined into larger systems.

GGZEM chief executive Joseph W. Pratt said: “Hydrogenics is well known as an industry leader and an excellent partner in delivering advanced hydrogen-based power and fuelling solutions. Their fuel cells have a proven track record and incorporate numerous innovative features that result in high efficiency and industry-leading reliability, making it a perfect fit for our integrated systems. I look forward to combining our capabilities on this initiative to reduce pollutants and greenhouse gases in the maritime industry.”

Headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario, Hydrogenics specialises in providing hydrogen generation, energy storage and hydrogen power models. It has manufacturing sites in Germany, Belgium and Canada and service centres in Russia, Europe, the US and Canada.

GGZEM was launched in 2017 and bills itself as a provider of clean and quiet marine power systems that “comply with all current and future environmental regulations, meet rising customer demand for sustainable systems, and reduce total cost of vessel ownership”.

Mr Pratt previously worked at Sandia National Laboratories, where he led the SF-Breeze study into the feasibility of fuel cell-powered ferries.

Torqeedo and WhisperPower develop DC generator

WhisperPower and Torqeedo have collaborated to develop a generator specifically designed as a back-up battery charger for vessels equipped with a Deep Blue Hybrid electric propulsion system.

The 25 kW 350 V DC variable speed diesel generator has been named the Range Extender by Torqeedo, and acts as a backup battery charger for that company’s BMW-I lithium batteries,

Based on WhisperPower’s ‘Genverter’ principle, the speed of the generator is adjusted to the most efficient speed, resulting in minimised fuel consumption, noise, vibration and exhaust emissions. Only 295 g of fuel is consumed per kWh of electricity and the noise level is 54 dB at a distance of seven metres.

The Deep Blue Hybrid system offers largely emission-free sailing, with the BMW-I lithium batteries able to be charged via renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and hydro generators. For longer trips, or if the hotel load requires more power than can be supplied by the batteries, the Advanced Hybrid Control System automatically manages and starts up the DC generator.

WhisperPower founder and chief executive Roel ter Heide said: “As electric propulsion systems need more and more power, a back-up or extra energy system is becoming increasingly necessary.

“Working together provides an excellent opportunity for both Torqeedo and WhisperPower to excel in green propulsion systems."

Torqeedo co-founder and chief executive Christoph Ballin said: “Torqeedo is very happy with the cooperation with WhisperPower. The product synergy is perfect.”

Drachten, Netherlands-based WhisperPower specialises in the development and production of smart energy systems incorporating compact and silent variable-speed generators, energy storage, high-quality power electronics and a range of system components.

Torqeedo, based in Gilching, Germany, manufactures clean electric propulsion systems in the 0.5-100 kW range for both commercial and leisure vessels. It offers 32 electric drives ranging from 1-80 hp and offers accessories such as solar charging technology, lithium batteries and a smartphone app. The company is owned by DEUTZ AG, a Porz, Germany-based engine manufacturer.

DEIF genset controller software updated

Danish provider of control systems for generators, DEIF Group, has released software updates incorporating several new features for its PPU 330 paralleling and protection unit and AGC-4 and AGC200 genset controllers.

The PPU 330 update includes a shaft generator regulation feature. Without this feature, the process of shifting shaft generators requires a complex process of starting up a diesel generator and synchronising and deloading the first shaft generator, before synchronising to the second. The new feature allows the second shaft generator to start synchronising while the first is still running, saving time and reducing running hours of the diesel generator, consequently reducing fuel consumption and maintenance requirements.

The maximum number of transistor outputs is increased to 12 and digital inputs to 16 by the update, from a previous maximum of four and 12, respectively.

DEIF’s upcoming CODESYS addon for the PPU 330 - which will allow users to create their own power-management systems without the need for extra programmable logic controllers - is also fully supported by the update.

New features in the update for the AGC-4 and AGC200 genset controllers allow up to 32 gensets to be handled by one power plant. The update adds a new warm-up sequence after generator breaker synchronisation, which means power will remain at the lowest stage until a pre-set temperature or input is reached. This results in the generator running on a lower load until it has warmed up, bringing the benefits of lower wear and tear and reducing the time taken to reach optimal operating temperature.

The update also brings the AGCs into line with US National Fire Protection Association requirements. It achieves this by adding a start sequence to the integrated battery test functionality and the option to display charger output current and voltage.

Fischer Panda UK receives type approval

Members of the International Association of Classification Societies board have granted type approval to Fischer Panda UK’s generator range, covering the 4000s Neo and the iSeries Panda 45i genset.

Fischer Panda UK sales and marketing director Chris Fower said: “We are very pleased to provide further confidence to our customers and partners that we supply reliable products that fulfil the highest quality standards.

“This new endorsement will be very valuable to us in assuring new customers and dealing with projects that require recognised approval, such as Lloyd’s or DNV.”

The full type approval classification achieved by Fischer Panda is as follows: Lloyd’s Register, Bureau Veritas, Croatian Register of Shipping/Austrian Veritas (Hrvatski Registar Brodova), Registro Italiano Navale, American Bureau of Shipping, DNV GL, Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (ClassNK), Russian Maritime Register of Shipping, Polish Register of Shipping (Polski Rejestr Statków), China Classification Society, Korean Register of Shipping and Indian Register of Shipping.

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