Methanol fuel cell project gets under way at Alfa Laval

Mads Friis Jensen, CCO and Co-founder, Blue World Technologies together with Lars Bo Andersen, Manager of Alfa Laval Test and Training Center - HTPEM fuel cell.

Posted on April 20, 2021

The Alfa Laval Test & Training Center in Aalborg, Denmark, is constructing an innovative fuel cell system that will be used to test high-temperature proton exchange membrane technology developed by methanol fuel cell specialist Blue World Technologies.

The test installation will explore the potential of methanol fuel cell technology as a source of marine auxiliary power. The fuel cell test setup will have a power of 200 kW, but the fully developed and modular design should be possible to scale up incrementally to a level of 5 MW.

Funded by the Danish EUDP (Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Program), the project is a joint effort between Blue World Technologies, Alfa Laval and vessel owners DFDS, Maersk Drilling and Hafnia.

During a year of planned testing at the Alfa Laval Test & Training Center, the fuel cell system’s durability and life span will be in focus.

HTPEM fuel cells have a higher tolerance for thermal cycling than other fuel cell types, which makes them well suited to the variable power production needed from a genset. Nonetheless, the technology will need to have life comparable to that of combustion technologies in order to be feasible on board. This will mean addressing various sources of performance degradation.

The system being tested will use carbon-neutral renewable methanol as fuel. However, it could be possible to adapt the concept to use fuels, such as LNG and ammonia.

“Alfa Laval is proud to work with such experienced partners to realize a high-efficiency HTPEM fuel cell system for marine use,” says Lars Skytte Jørgensen, Head of Technology Development, Energy Solutions, Alfa Laval Marine Division. “Alongside our efforts with solid oxide fuel cells in SOFC4Maritime and the work with methanol combustion already underway at the Alfa Laval Test & Training Center, this project is a key step in moving the industry into a carbon-neutral fuel landscape.”

Aalborg-based Blue World Technologies is ramping up for the mass production needed to bring fuel cells into cost parity with combustion-based solutions.

“Building on the scalability of automotive applications, we are convinced that methanol fuel cell systems can drastically reduce maritime climate and environmental impact,” says Mads Friis Jensen, chief commercial officer and co-founder at Blue World Technologies. “By further developing our technology in partnership with marine colleagues, and by ramping up our production capacity at the same time, we can deliver a fuel cell solution that is green, operationally sound and also commercially viable.”

Three vessel owners will contribute insights on the operational and commercial implementation of the HTPEM fuel cell system. RO/RO operator DFDS is actively moving away from fossil fuels and has experience with other fuel cell projects. Maersk Drilling has a strong focus on energy efficiency and comes to the project with experience of using auxiliary power for special applications.

Hafnia, owner of one of the world’s largest product tanker fleets, has a strategy of transitioning to viable future marine fuels and believes strongly in methanol. Hafnia has extensive knowledge of methanol bunkering and operations.

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