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China Classification Society awards first type approval for hydrogen marine fuel cell

22 Apr 2021

China Classification Society (CCS) on Tuesday (20 April) said it has awarded China’s first certificate of type approval for a marine fuel cell to Wuhan-based PEM fuel cell supplier Troowin Power System Technology Co.

The certificate was issued by CCS’ Wuhan branch following more than a year of reviews and on-site tests. The approval marks a major milestone in China’s pursuit of commercially viable alternative fuels and provides a new channel for the use of hydrogen fuel cells on ships.

Jia Siqing, General Manager of Industrial Products for CCS Wuhan branch, said it is a significant moment for the Chinese maritime industry as it works towards a zero-carbon future in line with President Xi’s announcement, to the United Nations in September 2020, that China will reach carbon neutrality before 2060 and ensure its greenhouse gas emissions peak in the next decade.

“CCS is working hard to develop the use of hydrogen fuel cells, “noted Jia. “Hydrogen is abundant and is an ideal candidate as a zero-emission fuel for combustion engines. 

“This certificate is the culmination of many years of work. CCS published its first guidelines on harnessing hydrogen as a commercial marine fuel in 2015 with the guidelines updated in 2017 and 2020.

“The detailed research found a hydrogen-enabled ship could ultimately be as safe as one powered by conventional fuels such as diesel.”

Jia said the next phase of hydrogen development will see CCS undertake a series of real time tests on a purpose-built bulk carrier of 2,100DWT. The ship is currently at the design stage but is expected to be powered by four 130kW hydrogen fuel cells. 

Once completed, the ship will be trialed along the Pearl River in Guangdong province, where it will carry operational cargoes. Reinforcing the data from these tests will be feedback from other sectors, such as the Chinese electric automotive sector. 

CCS is looking to be able to store enough hydrogen to take a ship on a deep sea voyage. CCS is researching ways to store hydrogen in large quantities and combine it with other fuel sources to extend range.

“Since hydrogen is the lightest natural element, more space is needed to store it,” explained Jia.

“We are looking at methods to create hydrogen at sea, such as the use of methanol or ammonia, which can be transported easily and cheaply.

“But the main focus of our work is carrying enough bulk hydrogen, for an entire voyage. We think liquid hydrogen would be a good contender for this. In the meantime high-pressure gas cylinders would be a reasonable solution.”

Luo Xiaofeng the Director of CSS Rules & Research Institute in Wuhan said a prime objective of the Pearl River tests would be to test safety procedures.

“Hydrogen is clearly the future and is a very hot topic in China,” commented Luo.

“CCS is working with other hydrogen-use sectors and universities to share the research notably the automotive industry. Safety is absolutely key to developing a commercial case, and these are the prime factors we will be testing on the Pearl River project.”

Luo added that for the short-term, low-carbon and hybrid systems are better forms of propulsion for deep sea voyages.

In addition to conducting research on various forms of marine hydrogen fuel storage technology, CCS has also jointly carried out special research on the application of hydrogen fuel on ships with China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC). 

The research includes risk assessment, ventilation and fire-fighting. The studies evaluate the feasibility, reliability and safety of hydrogen fuelled ships and provide support for the development of technical regulations.

CCS is further now mandated by the China Maritime Safety Administration to research and develop the first domestic technical regulations for ships using hydrogen as fuel, which is scheduled to be released at the end of 2021.

Marine Fuel Cell
Luo Xiaofeng, Director of CCS Rules & Research Institute in Wuhan

Photo credit: China Classification Society
Published: 22 April, 2021

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