Revolutionary fuel cell powered cruise ship for Norway fjords

A group of Norwegian companies is working to build a fuel cell powered cruise ship that will strive for zero-emission operations in the World Heritage Fjords and along parts of the Norwegian coastal route.

Bergen-based Norwegian Electrical Systems (NES) will install a 3.2MW hydrogen fuel cell working in combination with batteries. The ship is owned by Havila, a private Norwegian company that has holdings in real estate, offshore fisheries,  hotels and ferries – including the Vision of the Fjords, which operates an electric ferry carrying up to 400 passengers on a 32km sightseeing cruise in the delicate fjord waterscape.

fuel cell powered cruise ship cutaway schematic showing liquid hydrogen storage and battery placement
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The new ship will use hydrogen from liquid storage for the fuel cells, rather than the more frequently used compressed gas. Early plans for the ship outlined an on-board tank holding 3.2 tonnes of liquid hydrogen. The batteries are used to store additional energy and the project team is working with tank supplier Linde, and Sweden’s PowerCell in seeking Approval in Principal for the hydrogen system. NES says this will be “the most advanced clean coastal cruise ship in the world“.

Fuel cell powered cruise ship 1st part of long term plan

The ship, which should be ready for launch in 2021, is a first stage in the larger, long term  FreeCO2ast project which received funding from the Norwegian government’s PILOT-E plan in 2018 to develop vessels with up to five times longer zero-emission voyages.

At the time of the grant Havyard told Cruise&Ferry “We want to create a technology involving hydrogen and batteries that enables large vessels to sail with zero emissions over long stretches and at high speed.” Kristian Steinsvik, head of Havyard’s research and development team said “We can offer our customers energy-efficient and environmentally friendly vessels, help meet the United Nation’s goal of halving shipping emissions and do it almost 30 years before the goal of 2050.”

NES has been exploring the potential of battery-electric ships since 2013, but has apparently come to the conclusion that a combination of solutions is needed to meet the zero-emission goal for longer voyages.

Fuel cells with batteries better for longer voyages

“For some vessels batteries will be feasible,” said NES Vice President Technical Torbjørn Haugland “But for larger vessels and longer routes batteries will not have enough power or capacity. Here, we need to look at other solutions, and fuel cells are part of this solution. However, we cannot use fuel cells powered by hydrocarbons, so, with the growing acceptance and production of hydrogen, we looked at integration of a liquid hydrogen tank and the required fuel delivery system.”

One of the reasons Norway is a leader in clean marine technology for large ships is because the country passed a law in 2018 stipulating that vessels powered by any form of hydrocarbon that produces CO2, exhaust and other emissions will be banned from 2026.

In another response to this challenge, the council of Trøndelag County in fjord country requested proposals for viable zero emission high speed ferries in a  ‘hunt for the speedboat of the future’.

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gih speed zero emission ferry concept looks like the Starship EnterpriseOne of the most intriguing concepts proposes using another innovation backed by the Norwegian government: ‘Deep Purple’ hydrogen. The Deep Purple project uses offshore wind turbines to power an undersea electrolysis system which extracts hydrogen from seawater, stores it underwater and then transports it to stations on land as needed.

It is not clear exactly how the hydrogen for the NES project will be harvested, but Norway’s electricity is mostly generated from clean hydropower and some onshore wind. In any case this vessel is a big step forward in proving the ability of non fossil fuel sources to move large ships long distance.

Stein Ruben Larsen,  Sr. Vice President Sales at Norwegian Electrical Systems said “For tourists wanting to responsibly experience the Norwegian coastline, this vessel will be able to enter the country’s unique and beautiful world heritage Fjords without adding any CO2, exhaust or emissions.”

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