Fuel cell specialist Ballard Power Systems has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with global technology company ABB to jointly design, develop and validate a next-generation zero-emission fuel-cell powerplant for the shipping industry.

Under the MOU, the companies will undertake collaboration activities toward the development of megawatt (MW) scale proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell power systems for the marine market, with an initial focus on the cruise ship segment.

These systems could be used in a variety of ways, including provision of power for hotel operations while cruise ships are docked at port as well as the provision of primary propulsion power when ships are at sea.

With an electrical generating capacity of 3MW (equivalent to 4,000hp), the new system will fit within a single module similar in size to a conventional diesel engine.

“Hydrogen fuel cells are at the forefront of zero-emission technologies for shipping.”

Juha Koskela, ABB Marine & Ports Managing Director

Ballard’s Chief Commercial Officer Rob Campbell said the MOU is a significant next step in the company’s ongoing relationship with ABB.

He added, “The rapidly evolving marine market represents an exciting growth opportunity for zero-emission fuel cell technology. And, Ballard’s prior development and deployment of MW-scale containerised PEM fuel cell systems for land-based use gives us the critical experience and knowledge to collaborate effectively on the development of clean energy solutions for key marine market applications.”

Juha Koskela, Managing Director, ABB Marine & Ports, commented, “Hydrogen (H2) fuel cells are at the forefront of zero-emission technologies for shipping.” 

“We look forward to working with Ballard Power Systems on the next-generation fuel cell technology, in line with our commitment to equip the marine industry with electric, digital and connected solutions that maximise the full potential of vessels and enable a safe, efficient and sustainable maritime industry.”

Reduction of pollutants and carbon emissions is a high-priority for the marine industry. Regulations to restrict diesel emissions are being introduced at the local and regional levels in various parts of the world, and this is generating interest in zero-emission fuel cell technology.

Limiting greenhouse gas emissions through the use of H2 fuel cells is of particular interest in port cities, where significant multi-mode transportation opportunities exist to share centralised H2 fuelling infrastructure. This includes the presence of marine vessels, drayage trucks, trains, forklift trucks, and other transport vehicles at a single port facility.

The multi-year collaboration between Ballard and ABB will include joint market development activities, systems design and development work, as well as systems testing and validation activities.