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Cruise industry incorporates hydrogen fuel cells to reduce emissions of its floating hotels

The cruise divisions of MSC Group have placed two separate orders for hydrogen fuel cells, and each order marks a unique application of the technology in passenger shipping.

In its most recent action, the Swiss shipping behemoth ordered two luxury cruise ships to be outfitted with a hydrogen fuel cell that, according to experts, will allow the ships of the Explora Journeys luxury line to function in port without emitting carbon dioxide.

Already in place was a plan to employ a solid-oxide fuel cell that runs not on hydrogen but on LNG, taking advantage of the efficiency of deploying the technology to provide the cruise ship’s hotel load with a more readily available fuel.

The two initiatives by MSC are part of a rising trend among major cruise lines toward fuel cells for supplemental power as part of efforts to reduce carbon emissions, although the technology is still in its infancy.

As reported by TradeWinds, MSC’s Explora Journeys has purchased two cruise ships from Italian shipyard Fincantieri that will be powered by two 6-MW fuel cells and liquid hydrogen. The ships are scheduled for delivery in 2027 and 2028.

Two previously-ordered ships with 962 berths will be lengthened by 19 meters in order to accommodate the LNG and hydrogen systems.

Using hydrogen on the ships will enable emission-free power for the hotel operations and allow the LNG engines to be shut down in port.

However, MSC is not first. Silversea Cruises, another luxury company owned by Royal Caribbean Group, plans to launch its first cruise ship with hydrogen fuel cells and battery power, allowing its ships to operate carbon-free in port. The 1,000-passenger Silver Nova is expected to enter service in 2020.

Shore power substitute

The leader of the marine power systems team at Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (Marin), Moritz Krijgsman, stated that shipowners are considering alternative fuels for auxiliary power as a way to reduce emissions in ports without shore power.

Even where hydrogen is not utilized, fuel cells are finding a place on cruise ships as a means of reducing emissions from hotel load. In shipping, hotel load is the power required to operate systems other than propulsion, and it is substantial aboard cruise ships. because they contain actual hotels.

This year, Carnival Corp’s 5,000-passenger AIDANova (launched in 2018) will undergo a conversion that will make it the first big cruise ship with a fuel cell powered by methanol, a hydrogen derivative.

MSC Cruises, a subsidiary of the MSC Group, is constructing the 5,400-berth MSC World Europa, which will have solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) when it is delivered later this year.

The ship’s primary fuel and the fuel for its SOFC will be LNG.

The fuel cell, a product of Bloom Energy, is a fuel-flexible platform.

Bloom’s technology on the MSC World Europa will use an onboard reformation process to make hydrogen molecules from LNG, which is more readily available than other alternative fuels.

Singh said that, being a high-temperature fuel cell, SOFRs perform best when they operate at a consistent rate, giving a baseload of power that is perfect for hotel loads aboard cruise ships.

In the event that one module fails, the remaining modules can continue to operate.

LNG contains carbon, unlike pure hydrogen; the chemical formula of its primary component, methane, is CH4.

However, Singh stated that the carbon footprint of the Bloom system is 60% less than conventional fuels and 20% more efficient than utilizing LNG in a conventional internal combustion engine.

Bloom is prepared to employ carbon-free hydrogen or ammonia in its systems as soon as the shipping industry figures out how to load these fuels onto ships, he stated.


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