Fuel Cell Vessel Back In Service

By Keith Henderson at June 16, 2011 05:11
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The 100 passenger Hamburg, Germany tourist vessel Alsterwasser is back in service after refurbishment following a devastating fire last year. The hydrogen fueled vessel has two 50 kW (67 hp) fuel cells powering a 100kW (134 hp) hybrid electric propulsion system with lead acid batteries.

It was after maintenance work during a test run, that one of the batteries overheated and caused the fire which gutted much of the interior of the ship. The hydrogen gas cylinders and the fuel cells were in a separate compartment, were undamaged. Cause of the fire is allegedly wrongly connected batteries!

The fuel cell vessel project was originally conceived in 2005 and later that year a consortium of seven German organsations and one Czech research institute put together a feasible plan to build the Alsterwasser. The vessel was built in 2007 and entered service in 2008. The hull has an LOA of 25.5 m (84 ft), beam 5.2 m (17 ft), a draft (laden) of 1.3 m (4.2 ft) and displacement of 72 tonnes (79 tons). Being a tourist vessel cruising the canals (Hamburg has more canals than Venice), it is also important that the maximum height of 2.6 m (8.5 ft) can be reduced to 2.3 m (7.5 ft) by lowering the cabin roof to allow passage under low bridges. The ship including fuel cell propulsion system is classified by Germanischer Lloyd.

Caption: The Fuel Cell Ship Alsterwasser.
Image credit: ATG Alster-Touristik GmbH.

The hydrogen is stored at a pressure of 350 bar (5,075 psi) in cylinders and the 50 kg (110 lbs) capacity is sufficient for three days power supply. Refueling with compressed hydrogen is carried out at a station in Hamburg and takes approximately 12 minutes.

Proton Motor developed the liquid cooled PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) type fuel cell system, modified from cells used in commercial vehicles. When the propulsion motor is not running at full power, excess electrical energy is stored in the batteries.

Caption: A 50 kW Proton Exchange Membrane type fuel cell.
Image credit: ATG Alster-Touristik GmbH / Proton Motor GmbH.

Compared to a comparable diesel powered ship, it is estimated that the annual nett benefit to the environment is a saving of 1,000 kg of NOx (1.1 tons), 220 kg (485 lbs) SOx, 40 g (1.4 oz) of particulate and 70 tonnes (77 tons) of CO2. The project cost of EUR 5,2 million ($7.4M) is shared by a European Union Grant and investment from the consortium members.

Comments (1) -

The fuel cells technology is the future of mankind when oil reserves consumed within 50 to 100 years.

Ahmed El Makky |     6/23/2011 2:03:50 AM #

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