Hydrogen fuel cell, battery-enabled Hyflex could replace fossil fuel solutions, tests confirm

Several project partners have conducted a joint field test to demonstrate the latest innovation in hydrogen-electric power infrastructure — a containerized hydrogen fuel cell and battery solution.

Courtesy of PowerCell/Gothenburg Port Authority

The field test was carried out by the Port of Gothenburg, Skanska, PowerCell Group, Hitachi Energy, Linde Gas, Volvo Group and Skagerak Energy.

PowerCell Group, a Swedish hydrogen fuel cell systems provider, has partnered with Swiss technology company Hitachi Energy to develop a new product called Hyflex.

The product is a flexible container solution that can be used in a wide range of applications for emission-free power production. Hyflex uses a 100kW hydrogen fuel cell from PowerCell in combination with batteries to generate power independently of the grid without emitting greenhouse gases when using green hydrogen.

From March 4 to 17 in the Port of Gothenburg, the project partners demonstrated that the solution is ready to replace fossil fuel solutions today in real life operations.

Pilot tests, which were carried out at the new terminal area, Arendal 2 in the Port of Gothenburg, mark the first field test of Hitachi Energy’s hydrogen generator.

The generator has been in operation for the last two weeks using green hydrogen from Linde Gas to generate electricity for a charging station on-site. In turn, the charging station supplies electricity to an electric excavator from Volvo, which is used in one of the port’s major infrastructure projects where 140,000 square meters of new terminal area is being created in the outer areas of the Port of Gothenburg.

The trial was focused on off-grid power generation for construction sites and vehicles but the technology also has potential port applications, specifically with marine shore power connections (cold ironing) in mind.

When docked at port, ships remain predominantly powered by auxiliary engines to provide energy while the main engines are shut down. These auxiliary engines are typically powered by polluting oil-based fuels. Therefore, the development of more, and more sustainable shore power connections is key to reducing GHG emissions in ports.

“The green transition is underway, with hydrogen-electric solutions increasingly commercially valid for replacing fossil fuels in power generation – with demand for industrialised solutions supporting decarbonisation growing. At PowerCell, we see that the hydrogen industry is beyond the tech exploration stage and we are delivery emission-free fuel cell products to our customers,” Richard Berkling, CEO of PowerCell Group, commented.

“The Hyflex has the potential to replace diesel generator sets across multiple platforms, as well as taking on new power generation applications. The current demonstrator has been developed with construction sites in mind, however we also recognise the need for marine and port electrification applications, such as sustainable ship-to-shore power.”

From a marine perspective, the demonstrator project is well-timed with the European Union’s latest regulations. Under FuelEU Maritime, it will be obligatory for passenger and container ships to use shore power supplies for all electricity needs while moored in major EU ports as of 2030, with a view to mitigating air pollution in ports, which are often close to densely populated areas.

Sustainable shore power connections lower ships’ total GHG emissions and eliminate the local emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter such as black carbon that ships burning oil-based fuels produce. Importantly, this improves local air quality and supports the respiratory health of nearby residents, port workers, passengers and crew.

Hydrogen and fuel cells can also deliver an independent ‘off grid’ energy source; adding a layer of resilience, if – for example – the grid is unstable or goes down. Hydrogen fuel cells are seen as a strong option for shore power connections as they align well with the hydrogen infrastructure that many ports are already implementing or have planned to implement.

“In a diverse and energy-intensive operation like a port, there are many areas of use. It can be used as fuel for trucks, trains, or handling equipment in terminals, for propulsion of ships, or to support the power grid when a ship is connected to shore power. So the use of hydrogen fits perfectly into the port context,” Viktor Allgurén, innovation manager at the Gothenburg Port Authority, said.

Learn more about hydrogen fuel cells and their role in maritime decarbonization in Offshore Energy’s recent interview with Johan Burgren, Business Manager Marine at PowerCell.

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