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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

World's First Fuel Cell Ship sails into Copenhagen

A bright orange North Sea supply ship from Norway dubbed "Viking Lady" is the first ship in history to employ a fuel cell.

The global trade of manufactured goods between Asia and the West has exploded in resent years with shipping now accounts for 90% of global trade by volume and in international waters ship emissions remains one of the least regulated parts of our global transportation system.

The fuel used in ships is waste oil, basically what is left over after the crude oil refining process. It is the same as asphalt and is so thick that when cold it can be walked upon . It's the cheapest and most polluting fuel available and the world's 90,000 ships chew through an astonishing 7.29 million barrels of it each day, or more than 84% of all exported oil production from Saudi Arabia, the worlds largest oil exporter.

Shipping is by far the biggest transport polluter in the world. There are 760 million cars in the world today emitting approx 78,599 tons of Sulphur Oxides (SOx) annually. The world's 90,000 vessels burn approx 370 million tons of fuel per year emitting 20 million tons of Sulphur Oxides. That equates to 260 times more Sulphur Oxides being emitted by ships than the worlds entire car fleet. One large ship alone can generate approx 5,200 tonnes of sulphur oxide pollution in a year, meaning that 15 of the largest ships now emit as much SOx as the worlds 760 million cars.

Ships can reduce emmissions while increasing profits, after all, fuel costs for a tanker ship are fully 41 percent of its total operating costs. The 5,900 metric ton Viking Lady owned by Norwegian shipping company Eidesvik has a 320-kilowatt molten carbonate fuel cell installed that operates on liquefied natural gas (and can be reconfigured, if necessary, to run on methanol).

Storage tanks for the hydrogen and carbon dioxide that gets the fuel cell started press up against the stern of the 92.2 meter-long ship (in case of explosion) as do the machines to regasify the fuel. The fuel cell operates at 650 degrees Celsius.

Liquefied natural gas is cheaper than diesel and there are as many as 15 such fueling stations along the Norwegian coast. The Viking Lady gases up once a week and the ship's 220 cubic meter tank can hold roughly 90 metric tons of liquefied natural gas at a time.

The $12 million fuel cell from MTU is only in the testing phase, which will continue until mid-2010, and is not responsible for driving any of the four electric motors or propellers. Onboard combustion turbines directly burn LNG to supply electricity to the propulsion system.

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