Wärtsilä’s WFC20 fuel cell unit has been installed onboard the Undine, a car carrier owned by Swedish Wallenius Lines and managed by Wallenius Marine. This unique power unit is the first of its kind in the world, and will during the test period provide auxiliary power to the vessel while producing close to zero emissions. This project is an important step towards more environmentally sound shipping and cleaner seaborne transportation.
The fuel cell unit, which has a nominal output of 20kW, is based on planar solid oxide fuel cell technology (SOFC), and fuelled with methanol. Methanol is particularly suited for fuelling the WFC20 since it can be easily reformed to a composition suitable for the unit. Methanol can be produced from natural gas, or from renewable raw materials such as gasificated biomass. Methanol is a commonly used liquid in the oil and process industries, and is available in all major harbours.
Installation of the WFC20 fuel cell unit onboard the Undine is the result of a joint project by the international METHAPU consortium. The participants in the consortium are Wärtsilä, Wallenius Marine, Lloyd’s Register, Det Norske Veritas, and the University of Genoa, each of whom is globally active in the field of fuel cell system integration, sustainable shipping, classification work or environmental assessment. The project has been funded with €1 million from the European Union, and is part of the European Community Framework Programme (FP6).
The principal aim of the METHAPU project has been to validate and demonstrate new technologies for global shipping that can reduce the environmental impact of vessels. In addition, a further major aim is to establish the necessary international regulations for the use of methanol onboard commercial vessels, and to allow the use of methanol as a marine fuel.
“The development of sustainable sea transportation is a long term target and one that Wallenius Marine is strongly committed to. The METHAPU project supports this vision, not only through developing sustainable fuel cell technology for commercial transportation applications, but also by providing the opportunity to utilize a new renewable marine fuel. Furthermore, Wärtsilä’s deep expertise in SOFC fuel cell technology provides us with a solid platform from which to gain useful experience for the future,” says Per Croner, president, Wallenius Marine.
The Undine, with the Wärtsilä FC20 unit installed, sailed from the German port of Bremerhaven in May. From there it has headed for the US, via Sweden and the UK. The validation process carried out at sea will provide excellent feedback and valuable information for the future development of this technology for marine environment applications.
An essential part of Wärtsilä’s strategy
Fuel cells are considered to be one of the most exciting energy technologies for the future. In addition to methanol, Wärtsilä’s fuel cells can efficiently utilize various gases as fuel and produce almost zero nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulphur oxide (SOx) and particulate emissions, all of which are harmful to the environment. It is expected, therefore, that fuel cell technology will also offer significant benefits to the shipping industry, where international emission regulations are becoming increasingly stringent.
The development of fuel cell technology is a part of Wärtsilä’s long-term product development, aimed at supplementing the company’s product portfolio. The development of environmentally friendly and sustainable energy production technologies is an essential part of Wärtsilä’s strategy. In 2008, Wärtsilä delivered a unique fuel cell unit, producing electricity and heating to the Vaasa Housing Fair site in Finland. The WFC20 unit, used in this project, runs on methane-rich gas originating from a nearby landfill, and was developed and is operated by Wärtsilä.