Fuel cell powered pushboat set for 2021 delivery

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Concept illustration of fuel cell powered push boat

ABB is to provide a hydrogen fuel cell based power and propulsion solution for a newbuild pushboat planned to be delivered in 2021 to France’s Compagnie Fluviale de Transport, a Sogestran Group subsidiary.

“CFT has been an inland waterways innovator for more than half a century. Powering river transport in a sustainable way is a new type of challenge, but it has become vital that we cut emissions on Europe’s inland waterways and specifically in the city centers,” said Matthieu Blanc, COO at CFT. “With this project, we aim to highlight that emission-free operation is both feasible and commercially viable.”

The “green” hydrogen for the fuel cells will be sourced from shore-based renewable energy,making the complete vessel energy chain will be emission-free.

The fuel cell powered pushboat is being developed with support from the EU-funded FLAGSHIPS initiative.

“Taking an active role in the FLAGSHIPS initiative, ABB continues to push the boundaries of e-mobility in shipping,” said Peter Terwiesch, President of the Industrial Automation business at ABB. “As one of the world’s leading enablers of sustainable transportation, ABB is committed to writing the future of the marine industry that will see vessels plying the world’s waters more cleanly and efficiently.”

As a FLAGSHIPS member since the project’s start in January 2019, ABB has been working closely with Finnish research organization and project coordinator VTT and fuel cell solutions specialist Ballard Power Systems Europe to develop an installation enabling a 400 kW fuel cell to power vessel operations.

The project objective is to demonstrate that fuel cells are a practical and deliverable propulsion solution for owners and builders of mid-sized vessels carrying more than 100 passengers or the equivalent freight volumes inland or coastwise. For this reason, the scope of FLAGSHIPS also includes assessing the operational impact of the switch to hydrogen as a fuel.

Once the fuel cell power plant has been fitted, the plan is to run the vessel daily, with special attention being paid to the refueling procedures needed to meet the operating schedule. The trials will thus also provide insights into developing and optimizing the refueling infrastructure needed for hydrogen fuel cells in marine operations.

The FLAGSHIPS project is supported by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), a public private partnership established under Europe’s Horizon 2020 frameworks to accelerate commercial realization of the technology in a range of transport and energy uses. The three members of FCH JU are the European Commission, fuel cell and hydrogen industries represented by Hydrogen Europe, and the research community represented by Hydrogen Europe Research. Parties involved in the CFT newbuild project also include LMG Marin, NCE Maritime CleanTech and PersEE.

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