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RiverCell consortium: Fuel cell unit passes safety testing

Advent Technologies Holdings’ fuel cell unit for the maritime sector – developed within the frame of the RiverCell Consortium – has passed safety testing, as well as a safety assessment completed by classification society DNV.

RiverCell, a demonstration project supported by a consortium of partners, was initiated in 2015 and is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport and led by shipbuilder Meyer Werft, it consists of a range of partners throughout the maritime sector, including DNV, HADAG, Helm Proman Methanol, Neptun Werft, Pella Sietas, Technische Universität Berlin, Viking River Technical Cruises, and Advent.

The project is dedicated to the design and development of a fuel cell hybrid system for inland vessels, and its realization has provided valuable insights in terms of the suitability, practical use, and economic efficiency of hybrid powertrains, according to project partners.

In addition to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the hybrid concept – featuring energy storage combined with sustainable fuel cell-powered energy production – demonstrated an increase in both safety and efficiency in shipping.

As part of the demonstration, a section of a river cruise vessel was set up on dryland at Neptun Werft, in Rostock, Germany. There, the prototype of Advent’s Serene marine fuel cell unit was successfully integrated into a hybrid DC electric energy grid, which was equipped with all relevant ship systems, including battery storage as well as a conventional diesel genset.

With current regulations still based on the traditional use of diesel-powered energy sources, another core objective of the demonstrations has been to encourage the development of new global regulatory frameworks for the shipping sector, thus paving the way for future use of sustainable technologies.

“The maritime industry needs to find new ways to reduce all its emissions. Not only in the long run, but starting immediately, the shipping industry needs to deploy sustainable technologies and in particular speed up the change to renewable fuel sources,” RiverCell’s Project Manager, Ragnar Christenson from Meyer Werft, said.

“By RiverCell, we have demonstrated how fuel cell technology can be a safe, clean and efficient alternative to today’s diesel gensets in marine use. We have also been able to demonstrate how hydrogen for fuel cells, in the form of methanol, can be safely and efficiently stored on ships.”

“The HT PEM fuel cells developed and manufactured by Advent Technologies can use methanol, carrier of hydrogen, as the fuel source, and we consider methanol one of the most promising and practical future fuels for the shipping sector.”

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Advent’s Senior Vice President, Morten Hougaard Sørensen, highlighted the importance of the project and its potential influence on future standards:

“Fuel cell technologies to replace diesel gensets for inland and sea-going vessels will significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Using methanol produced from natural gas offers reduction of local pollution (NOx, SOx emissions), and methanol produced from renewable sources can substantially contribute to reducing GHG emissions from shipping.”

“In recent years, interest in methanol as a fuel for the shipping industry has grown significantly, but the industry is also waiting for the final regulatory frameworks to come into place before committing to large-scale investments.”

“Now, with our prototype design of the marine fuel cell unit successfully passing its safety testing, and the safety assessment successfully completed with DNV, we hope to see this data included alongside equivalent standards using the technology, so the industry understands that fuel cells are both efficient, safe, and practical in use,” he concluded.