Freudenberg’s methanol fuel cell secures AiP from DNV GL

The company’s fuel cells supported by the ‘Pa-X-cell 2’ research project could be installed on the AIDANova cruise ship as early as 2021.

This pilot project involves collaboration between Freudenberg Sealing Technologies, Lürssen, Meyer Werft, AIDA Cruises, and DNV GL.

According to Freudenberg, electric propulsion and using hydrogen as a fuel source is not a practical option for deep sea shipping. As such, the company suggests that methanol is a feasible solution.

It explains that it is ‘a simple alcohol that is liquid under normal conditions and has about three times the energy density of liquefied hydrogen. The technical methods for the production are tried and tested because methanol is already an important basic material in the chemical industry.

‘If the carbon for the methanol production isn’t derived from fossil sources but separated from the air, for example, or if the methanol is generated from biomass, the fuel is completely climate-neutral.’

Freudenberg explains that methanol can be used in polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells that operate with an upstream reformer. Through steam reforming, the system produces hydrogen, which reacts with oxygen in the fuel cell to produce the electricity required for the propulsion as well as the on-board power supply.

The company has develope a fuel cell operated with methanol in a container design for the shipping sector. The fuel cell stack, reformer, control electronics are housed in a prefabricated container for efficient onboard installation.

Each container can have a rated output of up to 500 kilowatts and can be scaled with additional units to achieve total output in the double-digit megawatt range. Due to the high degree of thermal and mechanical integration of the full system, the heat required for the reformer can be obtained directly from the waste heat of the fuel cells.

For applications in which range isn’t an essential criterion and where hydrogen infrastructure exists on site, Freudenberg provides fuel cell systems without reformers for pure hydrogen operation. The company also offers fuel cells operating with LNG, where the required reformer is also integrated int the container.

‘Our solutions aren’t just suitable for cruise ships and yachts but also all kinds of cargo ships and ferries. More than 95% of the ships require a solution that will work on the high seas,’ said Michael Milch, who heads Freudenberg’s program management.

‘The configuration as a hybrid fuel cell-battery system makes it possible to equip ships in all performance classes with 100% climate-neutral propulsion. Freudenberg offers its customers these hybrid solutions from one source.’

Lesley Bankes-Hughes

Lesley Bankes-Hughes