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ABB and Ballard develop fuel cell for shipping industry

Artist's impression the ABB and Ballard Power Systems ferry

The collaboration’s initial phase will focus on fuel cell power systems for passenger vessels

ABB and Ballard Power Systems have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to develop the next-generation fuel cell power system for sustainable marine e-mobility. The fuel cell power system will be jointly designed, developed and validated by the partners.

The system is believed to help ship-owners meet the increasing demands for clean operations.

The two companies will leverage the existing kilowatt-scale fuel cell technologies and optimise them to create a pioneering megawatt-scale solution suitable for powering larger ships. With an electrical generating capacity of 3 MW (4,000 HP), the new system will fit within a single module no bigger in size than a traditional marine engine running on fossil fuels.

“This MoU is a significant next step in our ongoing relationship with ABB, the innovative market leader in marine solutions,” said chief commercial officer at Ballard Power Systems Rob Campbell. “The rapidly evolving marine market represents an exciting growth opportunity for zero-emission fuel cell technology. And, Ballard’s prior development and deployment of megawatt-scale containerised PEM fuel cell systems for land-based use gives us the critical experience and knowledge to collaborate effectively on the development of clean energy solutions for key marine market applications.”

Fuel cell systems can have various applications for vessels, such as providing power for a ship’s hotel operations during the time of docking, or for powering the propulsion when ships are at sea.

The proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEM) convert the chemical energy from hydrogen into electricity through an electrochemical reaction. They involve no combustion, converting fuel directly to electricity, heat and clean water. With the use of renewables to produce the hydrogen, the entire energy chain can be clean.

“The next generation of ships – electric, digital and connected – will require energy sources that are not only able to meet the increasing demands for fuel efficiency, but will also enable cleaner and safer shipping,” said president ABB’s Industrial Automation division Peter Terwiesch. “We are excited to collaborate with Ballard Power Systems on driving the development of the next-generation fuel cell technology that will power the vessels of the future.”

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