Electric drives will help to extend the life of fuel cells to meet five-year drydock schedules, according to a new partnership focused on cruise ship propulsion.
GE Power Conversion and fuel cell company Nedstack have designed a multi-megawatt hydrogen power plant for passenger vessels as part of a new cooperation. The companies hope to develop fuel cell systems that can provide full power and propulsion for cruise ships.
Nedstack and GE have described the results of their initial design, a two-megawatt power plant on an expedition vessel, as “highly positive and plausible”. The system uses proton-exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells which are fuelled with hydrogen and produce electricity, water and heat with no exhaust gasses.
Variable-speed electric drives will be used to optimise the control of the fuel cells and distribute the electricity generated. Turning fuel cells on and off frequently reduces their life expectancy and can be limited by using electric drives and a power management system. This will fuel cells to reach the required five-year drydock intervals.
GE Power Conversion president and CEO Azeez Mohammed said: “Ships are increasingly being required to shut down their engines in port. We’ve seen this in California, for example, and China has introduced an emission control area. However, the trend is shifting from emissions reduction to total elimination.”
Netherlands-based Nedstack has deployed its fuel cells in the marine environment previously, powering a waterbus in Amsterdam since 2010. It is also a member of a Dutch consortium formed last year to develop fuel cell systems for inland and shortsea vessels.
Nedstack CEO Arnoud van de Bree said: “Existing clean power solutions are focused on reducing emissions. Eliminating emissions altogether demands a paradigm shift. GE and Nedstack have been working extensively on the ‘marinization’ of fuel cell technology to create a total zero-emission alternative [for the] cruise industry.”