Hydrogen and fuel cells bring a number of advantages to the marine sector,
and are ready for trials and demonstrations in a number of marine applications.
Marine energy systems are intrinsically not connected to electrical grids
and need to operate with high reliability for long periods. Fuel cells are
highly efficient energy conversion devices that produce clean, silent, reliable
power for as long as a fuel is available - with emissions of hot water.
Hydrogen is a fuel that can be used to power fuel cells or hydrogen internal
combustion engines. Whilst hydrogen gas is not found in nature in its pure
form it has the advantage that it can be generated locally by electrolysing
water. Electricity is required to power this process and if the electricity
comes from renewable sources such as solar energy or wind power, the hydrogen
produced is a 100% renewable zero-carbon fuel. This fuel can be stored to
produce completely renewable power-on-demand. Hydrogen can also be produced
by reforming (separating it from) hydrocarbon fuels like natural gas, propane,
or even diesel.
Applications and advantages of Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies
in the Marine environment:
- Storing energy for power on demand - Storing intermittent
renewable energy (wind, solar or tidal) as hydrogen fuel for conversion
back into electricity as and when required.
- Baseload power for stationary vessels – Fuel cell
technologies can be used to provide considerably quieter and cleaner
energy (electrical, cooling and heat) for stationary ships in port.
This helps to reduce coastal pollution, reduce noise pollution to the
local community, reduce the use of onboard fuel supplies and potentially
provide cheaper energy.
- Reduced dependence on fossil fuels – Fuel cells
can either make existing fossil fuels last longer (due to their high
efficiency) or utilise renewable low emission fuels like hydrogen.
- Battery charging – For smaller vessels fuel cells
can be used as more environmentally friendly and quieter battery chargers.
Batteries can be charged 24 hrs a day without causing noise disturbances.
- Primary power – There are already a number of projects
around the world where hydrogen powered fuel cells are being used to
provide primary power for small recreational vessels. Ideal applications
for these vehicles include waterways with high pollution or noise restrictions.
- Backup power / emergency power – Fuel cells can
be used to provide reliable backup power that will last as long as there
is available fuel. This can be used to power emergency systems, refrigeration
and navigational equipment.
Why the need for change?
- Rising Fuel Prices – With the increasing demand
for fossil fuels and the decline in supplies, all industries need to
look forward to adopting technologies that reduce and ultimately eliminate
their dependence on these fuels.
- Climate Change – With increasing concern over the
effects of burning fossil fuels on the world climate from governments,
industry and individuals, there is an increasing need to change the
way we produce and utilise our energy
- Ocean Pollution - The majority of ocean pollution
occurs within a very short distance from the shore and can largely be
attributed to vessels using polluting technologies whilst stationary.
- Waterway Pollution – There are ever increasingly
tighter restrictions on pollution caused by fossil fuel engines in inland
waterways. Some lakes and rivers have even banned or placed heavy restrictions
on motor boats to combat the problem.