Fuel cells ‘could power ships by 2012’

The shipping industry could start powering its fleets with fuel cells in three years' time but it could be up to 30 years before all existing engines are switched over to such low-carbon technologies.

According to Lloyd’s Register, there are already many low-carbon options available now which can be incorporated into designs for new ships.

Speaking at Shipbuilding, Machinery and Marine Technology Trade Fair, in Istanbul, (SMM Istanbul), Dr Zabi Bazari, ship energy services manager for Lloyd’s Register Marine Consultancy Services, said that energy savings as high as 40% could be achieved by using new technologies.

He said fuel cells are the most likely long-term low-carbon alternative for ships, and could eventually become the main energy unit in commercial ships.

He believes that they will begin being used for auxiliary power generation engines after another three-year period of research and development.

But Dr Bazari warned that full replacement of existing engines would not be likely for 20 to 30 years.

Looking at other ways to reduce ships’ carbon emissions, he said hulls could be designed to reduce hydrodynamic resistance, and propellers could be modified to reduce energy loss.

Improvements in measurements and monitoring, especially wide-scale ship-board energy metering, could make it easier to cut energy use, and Dr Bazari recommended the use of smart sensors and control systems, in particular for heating ventilation and air conditioning systems in new ships.

The previous evening at a Lloyds Register reception for Turkish shipowners, Dr Bazari had explained how Lloyds Register is helping ships reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions through methods such as energy audits, energy management training and CO2 indexing.

David Barrow, Lloyd’s Register EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) country manager for Turkey, said these methods would “support shipowners and operators in complying with environmental regulations and best practice as well as saving money and reducing their environmental impact”.

Kate Martin

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