MSC Cruises to Install Solid Oxide Fuel Cell on MSC Europa

MSC Cruises and Chantiers de l'Atlantique announced the SOFC project at the steel-cutting ceremony for the future MSC Europa (MSC)

Published Nov 6, 2019 2:50 PM by The Maritime Executive

At the steel-cutting ceremony for the newbuild MSC Europa, MSC Cruises and Chantiers de l'Atlantique announced plans to install a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) on the future LNG-powered ship, expanding the list of shipbuilders and owners with an interest in SOFC technology. The fuel cell will produce electricity and heat using natural gas, not hydrogen. 
It will be the world's first solid oxide fuel cell installed aboard a cruise ship. The proven technology operates at a very high temperature and is capable of converting hydrocarbons into electrical power. It offers a very good electrical efficiency of up to 60 percent, the partners said. By comparison, the most efficient low-speed marine diesel engine on the market weighs in with a 54 percent maximum energy conversion efficiency; on shore, the world's most efficient combined-cycle gas turbine power plant achieves about 63 percent efficiency. 

As the heat produced by the fuel cell can be consumed on board, its total efficiency - heat and electricity - can be much higher, resulting in a further reduction of energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Altogether, MSC expects that the LNG-powered fuel cell would reduce the emission of GHG by about 30 percent compared with a conventional LNG engine, with no emission of nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides or fine particles. In addition, it offers the advantage of being compatible with many fuels (LNG/methane, methanol, ammonia, hydrogen, etc.) and their future low-carbon versions.

The announcement follows a recent agreement between Samsung Heavy Industries and solid oxide fuel cell leader Bloom Energy to trial SOFC power in an Aframax tanker design. “As regulations to reduce GHG emissions take effect step-by-step, the introduction of fuel cells to vessels is inevitable. This approval, and being the first shipbuilder to secure this marine fuel cell technology, illustrates that Samsung Heavy is highly likely to lead the market,” said Kyunghee Kim, vice president of SHI's outfitting engineering team at the time of the announcement. 

Separately, the German industrial conglomerate thyssenkrupp and a consortium of partners are working on a shipboard fuel cell that can run on either diesel or natural gas. The partnership - known by its project acronym, MultiSchIBZ - aims to develop and demonstrate a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) suitable for maritime use by 2020-2022.