Maritime Application of Fuel Cells


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:


Like the man said, there’s one born every minute.


Well I’m not joking, but maybe the producers are??
I just linked to a company that claim to have a workable hydrogen generator suitable for commercial fishing vessels (among other applications)

PS> I don’t think this is what got Mr. Steimler at Ervik excited though.


Google “Brown’s Gas” and “HHO” and watch the nuts come out of the woodwork.


Ooops!!! Did I accidentally promote a scam here??:

Well, I don’t think the engineers working on the other hydrogen based systems I posted would fall for that one.


Now you know how easy it is to drink the Kool-Aid when the right words are used in certain contexts. Just read some of the posts here to see where poor technical literacy leads to bizarre ideas.


Hmm. A ship could provide temporary hotel services without it being built into the ship. For example, conex boxes for living connected to water, waste and air conditioning in other boxes. Food could be self-serve MRE from the freeze box to microwave. Later on these temporary hotel boxes could be removed.

You see this kind of stuff on ‘prepper’ sites and temporary military camps. You wouldn’t have to custom make any of it.


That idea of pre-cooked meals and microwave ovens were tried back many years ago. But it failed because the crew refused to accept it, because; “How do you vent your frustration and complain to a microwave oven??”

But I believe the initial solution on the Yara Birkeland will be as you describe, but with the air-conditioning replaced by heaters. (Or maybe reverse cycle a/c)
LSA will also be supplied for the duration only.


NEL ASA has received orders for Hydrogen filling stations from Nikola in USA:
Not for marine use, but it shows that hydrogen fuel cells are seen as a viable future by some.


Hydrogen production using wind power as energy source as demand is on the rise:


Makes sense as it will utilise, store and repurpose excess wind power off peak,which is probably the way to go.

Also future technologies and distributed storage will be game changers.


A couple of more references found at the reliable Diesel Duck

2007 Generic basic description more related to automotive but good background on types etc.

2016 EMSA study related to maritime ops. Long and detailed.


This article on Hydrogen as marine fuel appeared in USCG Proceedings Magazine, May-Dec. 2017:


A new factory in Freeport Tx produces ammonia from cheap hydrogen:
If hydrogen is a cheap byproduct from refineries it should be an ample source for use as fuel for ships and vehicles as well?

PS> Not zero emission though.