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LNG-powered “Viking Energy” to undergo ammonia powered fuel cell conversion

28 Jan 2020

Maritime innovation project ShipFC recently announced its objective to install the world’s first ammonia-powered fuel cell on an offshore supply vessel Viking Energy; the project has been awarded EUR 10 million funding from the European Union. 

The project is being run by a consortium of 14 European companies and institutions that is coordinated by the Norwegian cluster organisation NCE Maritime CleanTech, and has been awarded backing from the EU’s Research and Innovation programme Horizon 2020 under its Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU).

One of the major project milestones is to demonstrate the possibility of a long-range zero-emission voyages with high power on larger ships by installing a large 2MW ammonia fuel cell retrofitted into an offshore vessel Viking Energy.

This will allow Viking Energy to sail solely on the clean fuel for up to 3,000 hours annually.

ShipFC will also be aiming to achieve the following milestones:

  • To ensure that a large fuel cell can deliver total electric power to shipboards systems safely and effectively. 
  • A significant part of the project will be the scale up of a 100-kilowatt fuel cell to 2 megawatts. 
  • The fuel cell is tested on land in a parallel project and development and construction will be undertaken by Prototech. 
  • Testing will be executed at the Sustainable Energy Norwegian Catapult Centre. 
  • The ship-side ammonia system will be supplied by Wärtsilä. 
  • Norwegian crop nutrition company Yara has been contracted to supply the green ammonia which will be produced by electrolysis and delivered to Viking Energy containerised to enable easy and safe refuelling.
  • Perform studies on three other vessel types, namely offshore construction vessels and two cargo vessel types, to illustrate the ability to transfer this technology to other segments of the shipping industry.

The ammonia fuel cell system will be installed in Viking Energy in late 2023.

The project represents the latest stage in the long running collaboration between Equinor, Eidesvik and Wärtsilä. 

The 6013 dwt Viking Energy was the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered ocean going vessels in 2003, and Eidesvik and Wärtsilä also collaborated on the 2009-built Viking Lady, another LNG-fueled vessel that was seen as a milestone in the transition of shipping with its installation of fuel cells and marine batteries.

“This is a result of hard work over time as we have continued to collaborate with Equinor on transformative projects,” said Eidesvik President & Chief Executive Jan Fredrik Meling.

“We are proud to be pioneers when it comes to introducing new energy carriers and fuels into the industry. This project to install the world’s first ammonia-powered fuel cell will help us continue our journey towards a decarbonized future and help maintain our competitive role”.

 “We see projects such as the ShipFC conversion to use ammonia on a high-powered marine fuel cell as an important step in finding the right sustainable and clean solutions in the future,” said Equinor Senior Vice President for Joint Operations Support Cecilie Rønning.

NCE Maritime Cleantech cluster chief executive Hege Økland said ammonia is an abundant energy source and can easily be made from renewable resources, making it one of the fuels that will likely meet part of shipping’s future energy demand.

“Fair wind to the ShipFC project as it trials the route of maritime decarbonisation with green ammonia as a fuel and Solid Oxide Fuel Cell as a powertrain,” said FCH JU Director Bart Biebuyck.

Bart Biebuyck believes the project complements the portfolio of maritime projects supported by FCH2 JU: MARANDA and FLAGSHIPS, which use hydrogen as a fuel and Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells.

Alongside NCE Maritime Cleantech (NO), Eidesvik Shipping (NO), Equinor (NO), Prototech (NO) and Yara (NO) in the European consortium are:

  • Wärtsilä Norway (NO) which will work on the fuel systems, any changes to the ship’s design and stability and the energy management of the vessel. 
  • Fraunhofer IMM(GE), an institute of the leading German organisation for applied research, has expertise with fuel cell process development and will assist Prototech in the development and construction of the ammonia fuel cell system. 
  • A specialised SME Persee (FR) is an expert in energy management controls and data. 
  • The University of Strathclyde (UK) and National Centre for Scientific Research Demokritis (GR) are consortium members assessing any safety criteria. 
  • The three test cases that will look at the ability to transfer the technology to other vessels has led to North Sea Shipping (NO), Capital-Executive Ship Management (GR) and Star Bulk Ship Management (CY) also being part of the consortium. 
  • One of the five Catapult centres in Norway, Sustainable Energy Norwegian Catapult Centre, has responsibility for testing autonomous sustainable energy systems as well as scale-up of the ammonia fuel cell.


Photo credit: FCH Europa
Published: 28 January, 2020

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