Last year, Members
of the European Parliament voted in favor of ships cutting greenhouse gas (“GHG”)
emissions by 2 percent by 2025, 20 percent by 2035, and 80 percent by 2050,
compared to 2020. Following
this decision, the International Maritime Organization member states proposed even
stricter standards for reducing GHG emissions in the maritime sector, calling
for full decarbonization by 2050.
Because of these new stricter
emissions standards, thousands of container vessels, yachts, and ferry operators
worldwide with ships weighing above 5,000 gross tons will need to replace their
heavy fuel oil and diesel generator drive solutions in the coming years.
Fortunately, there is an innovative application that represents the first
concrete step in generating carbon-neutral power from green fuels like
eMethanol and bio-methanol and represents a significant step towards net zero
for the entire maritime industry.
In 2021 Siemens Energy began
working with customers to develop solutions to reduce the environmental impact
of ships. The first stage involved using methanol fuel cell systems – a technology
unavailable in the maritime market then – to generate
electricity on board. The aim was to create a net-zero GHG emission system
compatible with the limited footprint in a marine environment.
Less than two years
later, this technology is now available due to the joint efforts of Siemens Energy
and the fuel cell supplier, Advent Technologies Holdings, Inc (“Advent
Technologies"). The European Commission is funding a current project because
of its potential to create a sustainable solution to decarbonize the maritime
sector. The project involves integrating the combined reformer/fuel cell modules
into the power supply system for hotel functions on yachts and is proceeding as expected. The testing phase of the
first reformer/fuel cell modules has begun, and the complete system will be
installed on board a superyacht next year.
The project will use Advent Technologies’
methanol-powered fuel cells – a sustainable and reliable auxiliary power source with
improved power density. This marine fuel cell solution will be used as a hybrid
(diesel engine combined with fuel cells) power source, enabling clean
electricity generation compared to full conventional diesel engines and
Methanol, which is biodegradable,
enables excellent properties for hydrogen storage. The volumetric energy
density of methanol is four times higher than that of compressed hydrogen at 700
bar and two times higher than that of liquid hydrogen. As a result, precautions
and energy losses because of low temperatures and high pressures are non-existent.
Savings are realized in space, time, money, and energy. In addition, methanol has
very similar physical properties at ambient conditions as diesel, it is easy to
handle, and operators can use existing fuel infrastructure.
hydrogen is a versatile energy carrier that can be applied to decarbonize a
wide range of sectors. It can be used directly or in derivatives like
eMethanol, eAmmonia, or eFuels to replace fossil fuels, coal, or gas. For green
hydrogen production, Siemens Energy is supporting the shipping industry to
assess and boost the use of green fuels using PEM technology. In addition, Siemens
Energy’s Silyzer is ideal for harnessing volatile energy from wind and solar to
generate green hydrogen.
The future goal is to operate a
superyacht powered solely by green methanol. Thus, the power generation needed
for a yacht to sail at maximum speed would no longer be tied to diesel engines
but instead, be based on a combination of fuel cells and internal combustion
engines powered by green methanol.
Energy began offering hybrid solutions in 2008 and has delivered more than 40
ships equipped with its BlueDrive solution. In addition, the technology is
continuously improving in the company’s research centers in Italy, Germany, and
Norway. The technology is ideal for compact ships because it offers maximum
efficiency, minimum emissions and noise, and digital operation in a small
footprint. In addition, it is easily combined with alternative energy sources
such as batteries, solar and fuel cells and complies with stringent
What is next?
After completing this
project, Siemens Energy plans to develop similar solutions
with Advent Technologies for a broader range of business applications beyond
maritime, such as industrial power solutions. The technology roadmap to
increase the current nominal value of produced electricity for each fuel cell module
ten-fold will allow the use of fuel
cell solutions as a primary electricity source for propulsion systems throughout
the maritime sector – e.g., for yachting, ferries, government vessels, sightseeing
vessels, workboats, offshore supply vessels, and fishing boats.
Vasilis Gregoriou, Chairman and CEO of Advent Technologies,
concludes: “There is an increasing consensus in the market that
high-temperature proton exchange membrane (HT-PEM) technology is highly
suitable for maritime applications, owing to its compatibility with methanol
and other eFuels. The significant interest that our HT-PEM Serene fuel cells
have received from the maritime industry over the past several months is
encouraging and reinforces our potential to contribute to the industry's goal
of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.”