Maritime Application of Fuel Cells


that was my question, it seems the only data is on btu per litre but can you compare a fuel cell to piston engine consumption via btu of the fuel?

Dont forget one giant engine room and accommodation is no longer there so thats lots of fuel space


For some reason I thought that “powerabout” implied some basic knowledge of energy conversion.

Do some basic homework before posting stuff like that.

For some reason I thought that “powerabout” implied some basic knowledge of energy conversion.

Posts 652 and 655 should provide some kind of information for you. Look at the pictures in post 652 and let me know if you think that “giant engine room and accomodation” is going to contain 20 something megawatts of fuel cells plus their auxiliary equipment not to mention the power control and conversion components even if the actual propulsion motors are external to the hull.

Believe it or not I really don’t want to be snide and mean about this stuff but before you join a conversation about something like this you really should spend some time reading about energy conversion and power transmission as related to fuels and marine propulsion. Look at the history of marine mechanical propulsion and its relationship to the type and quality of fuels available as well as efforts to improve efficiency.


yes fuel cell 60% thermally efficient but using fuel that takes up more space, I get that.
I cant find a comparison with my question directly which is the answer we need.
All the data is skewed to whoever is writing it or the baseline they use is so far out like ICE 25% efficient etc.
Slow speed diesel and some turbines are at 50%.
Yet another with a forklift comparison says fuel cell doesnt beat battery or lpg via ice unless it also uses a battery hinting that there is an optimum output that a fuel cell needs to be at?
But they are measuring total power in ( including making the fuel) to forklift consumption.

Some data on the Toyota Kenworth project, using hydrogen truck does 200miles on a fill and the drive train weighs the same as the the original? does that mean its same weight as 200miles diesel fill up?
But for road vehicles they all seem to have a battery as well. For a ship its all uphill so no downhill regen parts.
Found a US gov doc from GM, hydrogen fuel cell 2kg/kw at 2.5ltr volume/kw, 24,000ltr in 40’ container so almost 10Mw per 40 box, so maybe same space as main engine but 10 40’ boxes on 22,000teu ship easy to lose.
ABB built a 135.000hp electric motor for NASA wind tunnel
Excluding its coolers and other accessories,
the motor occupies a space 3.65 meters long,
6.1 meters wide and 7 meters high.
Still got room for twice the fuel if lpg but what is power density for lpg fuel cell?
Certainly going to work for all the OSV’s in the new field in Ozzie where the Prelude can refuel them but they will be ICE I imagine.


I have been trying to follow your line of thought but you are really confusing too many topics in the same post or even the same sentence. The % efficiency is not a factor to consider without specific definition. Thermal efficiency? Mechanical? Theoretical? Actual?

Here, read this report with some specifics

If you make it through that you will see the efficiency numbers to not tell a simple tale.

For me the path to fuel cells for marine propulsion is anything but settled. It’s not the simple black box in place of a DG some people seem to think it is based on announcements and press releases. Use Hydrogen as a fuel and you have one set of problems. Use MGO or other hydrocarbon and you have the whole fuel reforming set of problems and machinery to go with it (not to mention the sulfur poisoning the catalysts) that begs the question does it really lend itself to powering an unmanned ship.

Good luck on your investigations but be careful extrapolating from automotive systems and the parameters they operate within or the biggest motor data you can find online and designing an economical marine propulsion system.


Thanks for the link
lots of facts with other contrary facts as they looked at others research.
I cant see if we are using lpg fuel cell there is a space issue on a ship which was what steamer was trying to say would make it a non starter. Yes we need twice the fuel volume.
Its technology so size and price are the 2 things you know will lower all the time as well.
The single large motor is a non starter but I was just getting a power density idea.
Autonomous ship would need to have 2 shafts and at least 4 motors.
The last place they will be introduced will be crossing oceans. Local work for sure.


You seem to be running before walking. How do you come to such a specific design parameter so quickly?

Once you solve the (big) fuel issue since the devices are likely to be smallish you could have more than one, no? You could use podded propulsors as Steamer was alluding to somewhere above. You could have propulsion cells separate from ships service cells and locate those close to where needed - operations/control center, bow thruster?

This stuff seems a ways off for ship size propulsion. I mean you can’t read that report and think scaling this up and making it commercially viable is going to be easy or is just around the corner. It’s a collection of technologies / approaches at this point and still in early stages. Experimental and prototype units. I’m glad to hear somebody has money for R&D but commercial off-the-the shelf soon? Don’t think so.


It was in reply to other bloke that complained I had one engine…
How do you feel about OSV/AHTS DP vessels with fuel cells and multi Mw batteries? ( not 100% yet)
They have been out there for a while now.
there are a few more now with 3.5MW batteries
I see the IMO645 update, 1580 has a few changes to reflect this

If and when this goes out to sea on a platform I imagine vessels wont be far behind if the fuel storage works out

( original post from Ombugge)


I don’t “feel” anything in particular about it. I don’t read it as the inevitable future or savior of shipping or the planet OR as a waste of time and money of no value. I note it. The Viking Lady seems to have been what we called a “demonstrator” project. 330 kW for 7000 hours. They should have gotten some good data about that specific cell design and fuel system. This is not even EDG size on many ships. I assume it had nothing to do with propulsion but no drawings or references to details are provided. Was this thing powering the entire SS bus? The lighting circuits only? Did a DG remain installed and ready to start? How many times was it taken off line and then re-started? What is the start up time? Hard to evaluate the project with out details such as these. Doesn’t make it not worthwhile though. This is how things evolve.

Hmm I don’t see it that way. First, it is a “concept”. Second, it seems to be meant to power stationary platform presumably within service distance of shore and alternate powering in case of problems. Which leaseholder will be first to replace his GT gen sets with this and risk shutting in production when the concept fails? In other words this, like all the other ideas, will progress from concept to demonstration projects, to scaling up, to commercial scale prototypes, to shore testing, to installation and actual use - if it has merit.

Where batteries fit in to a general ship size propulsion scheme I do not know and cannot generalize about. There may be no need for batteries at all or only sized for in-port ship service loads or specific system UPS service. In other cases like Foss’s ship assist hybrids it seems to make great sense - or will.

The whole area seems to be proceeding on many divergent paths and I expect the future will find that R&D will focus more narrowly on the most promising solutions and weaker ones will fall by the wayside. Not every press release represents a definitive conclusion or even useful evidence to base a decision on if you’re building a ship today.

It is possible to view these developments in a even tempered, rational, technically orientated, even hopeful fashion without professing to know “date certain” for various events or making huge jumps of conclusions. However, doing so may get you labeled as a Luddite or as “being left behind”.

I would suggest that if you and others want to continue the discussion of fuel cells we could move some of these posts to its own thread. I will look into that. However, interested as I am in the subject I really don’t have much else to offer unless someone starts posting real papers and drawings specifically aimed at the marine world.

In the meantime bona fortuna!


Unless those press releases originate from Sunnmøre.



Thanks, hopefully the larger font size will help … if not I’ll post it again even larger.


This is the web site for the company that produced the nice power point @Steamer linked to above.

Some good information and they look like they are producing proven, mature designs. Still their 1.4 MW unit is about the size of a “tennis court”. Puts out 480 VAC and is connected to a an external source of natural gas. Spec sheet here

An EMD MD skid with 16 645 E8 roots blown engine has a 1500 kW (1.5 MW) gen set (480 VAC). You could probably fit 5 or more of this skid with engine, generator and accessory rack in that same space.

This should give some idea of why and where development of this concept should continue for marine use. These units do look pretty advanced and off the shelf for the purpose they serve shoreside. And made in the USA!

Sound like a broken record, but MARAD used to fund pure R&D research and pilot or demonstration projects. Would be a nice project to put these folks together with NA/ME house and a shipyard to gin up a test platform.


You are right (for once) most of the new technology around hydrogen propulsion for marine use is progressing here in Sunnmore, or the nearest surroundings

  • Ferries at Fiskerstrand
  • HSCs at Br. AA.
  • Long liner for Ervik Havfiske

This technical discussion is getting a bit ahead of my knowledge, but here is Technology update on hydrogen-driven vessels:

Iceland may be the first country to be 100% on renewable energy, incl. their fishing fleet:


Here are sortable tables with energy densities of energy storage materials (Wh/kg and Wh/liter):

To illustrate the necessary volumes:
The CMA-CGM 18000 TEU Benjamin Franklin’s bunker volume is 17000 m3. In their pipeline, they have 22000 TEU ships with 18000 m3 of LNG.

Some energy densities in kWh per liter:
9.5 – 12 = the good old Coal
9.9 = Diesel
6.2 = LNG at -162°C
2.4 = Liquefied Hydrogen at -253°C
1.6 = Pressurized Hydrogen at 700 bar

I have problems with the liquefied hydrogen: After the production, the liquefaction of the gas costs >30% of the energy plus some process money; and -253°C is very, very cold to insulate and to handle. Maybe for small and specialized boats…

However, that gives only the volume of the product.
Diesel tanks are not complicated and can be adapted to the available space. The same for LNG tanks, minus the insulation of may be 30/40 cm all around.

Hydrogen at 700+ bar is another thing. I do not see big spherical tanks on a ship; they would be too heavy and too voluminous to place somewhere. Sometimes they use adaptable pipe arrays… and these would easily double the volume of the actual hydrogen.

For the Benjamin Franklin that could mean 17,000 m3 x 6 x 2 = 200,000 m3 for pressurized Hydrogen (e.g. 18,000 TEUs = 700,000 m3).


More to ponder …


“Hydrogen fuel cells are heavier than diesel engines for a given power output, so achieving the right power-to-weight ratio for the vessel was tricky.”
—Curt Leffers, the project manager for Elliott Bay Design Group


Here is Br.Aa’s HSC on hydrogen:


The hydrogen driven long liner and more:


It is not only in Norway that hydrogen is hot topic:


You are joking, correct? Burning diesel in an IC engine to generate electricity to electrolytically decompose water to pipe the resulting gas mixture (dubbed “HHO” or “Brown’s Gas”) into the engine as fuel is a thermodynamic joke, surely.


Hexagon ASA is a company specializing in gas storage and transport containers made from composite materials:
it has it’s HQ here in Aalesund, Norway, but with much of the production in USA. (Lincoln & AGILITY)

They are now putting their main effort into storage and transport systems for liquid hydrogen

They have gone into a joint venture with NEL ASA and Powercell Sweden AB to develop hydrogen systems for marine use: