Is fuel cell technology ready for commercialization?

For years, fuel cell technology has been considered a promising technology for marine use. However, large-scale, global commercialization has not yet happened. We asked the experts to bring us up to speed.

The European projects ShipFC and FLAGSHIPS are both demonstrating fuel cell technologies for achieving zero-emission solutions for maritime activities. Joining forces in our recent Tech Update seminar, we invited representatives from leading fuel cell manufacturers to give us the status quo of fuel cells for marine use.

Kristina Fløche Juelsgaard, the Director of Market Development at Ballard Power Systems, reckons their technology is both reliable and mature enough for full commercial deployment, but it needs to become more cost-efficient to hit the big market. Their next challenge is to move from pilots to large-scale production and make it cost-efficient.

– We see big cost reduction potential in scaling up. Today, all the little components are expensive, but with growing numbers, these prices will come down. We are also looking at reducing the number of high-cost materials in the cells to cut prices long term, Juelsgaard said.

Kristina Fløche Juelsgaard, the Director of Market Development at Ballard Power Systems, presented their innovative fuel cell technology.

Alma Clean Power is going to supply innovative ammonia-fuelled solid oxide fuel cells to the ShipFC-project. Their Head of Commercialization, Torleif Stokke, reckons SOFCs have great market potential in the maritime sector.

– We need more companies to take on SOFC, Alma cannot take it on alone if we’re going to succeed. We welcome everybody who will help this transition, Stokke said.

Importance of cost

The importance of cost was also highlighted by Hilde-Kristin Sæter, Project Manager of Norled. The ferry operator plans to use two 200 KW fuel cells from Ballard Power Systems in their latest pilot, the liquid hydrogen-powered ferry MF Hydra. Sæter pointed out six important factors for ship owners when they decide on which technology to choose for their newbuilds: Availability, scalability, flexibility, sustainability, safety, and cost.

– Most tenders favor the lowest cost, even if there are quality and environmental criteria too, Sæter said.

Preparing large-scale production

TECO 2030 is currently preparing Norway’s first large-scale production of hydrogen fuel cells in Narvik, Northern Norway, and is working towards getting the technology type-approved in early 2023. Their business developer, Pedram Nadim, said that their test results so far have exceeded their expectations. He reckons the need for more knowledge about how fuel cells will work is a challenge when it comes to commercializing the technology.

– We also see the traditional chicken and egg problem, what needs to come first – suppliers or buyers, Nadim said.

The New York-based technology company, Amogy presented their solution for ammonia cracking for use of hydrogen in fuel cells and displayed the technology from interesting pilot projects and their plans for upscaling.

–  Cost-effectiveness is one of the advantages of using ammonia, Seonghoon Woo, the CEO of Amogy, stated.

Popular industry interaction

The seminar with the European projects ShipFC and FLAGSHIPS and the Fuel Cell industry resulted in fruitful discussions and interaction on promising technologies. Over 100 participants gathered digitally to hear the experts’ thoughts on the future of fuel cell technology in shipping.

The FLAGSHIPS and the ShipFC projects have received funding from Clean Hydrogen Partnership (previously Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking) under grant agreements No 826215 and No 875156. This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program and Hydrogen Europe.

Don’t miss these fuel cell events at Nor-Shipping:

Thank you!