Korean Register works with domestic companies to develop SOFC power generation system for ships

By Lim Chang-won Posted : February 18, 2022, 17:54 Updated : February 18, 2022, 17:54

[Courtesy of Korean Register]

SEOUL -- South Korea's maritime classification society joined forces with a shipbuilder and a renewable energy company to develop a next-generation power generation system for ships using solid oxide fuel cells, an electrochemical conversion device that produces electricity directly from oxidizing a fuel. 

SOFC is considered to be the most stable and power-efficient among its fuel cell brothers. Because SOFC has a high power output compared to its size, the fuel cell system is ideal for powering mega-sized heavy equipment such as oil tankers and giant tunnel boring machines.

Korean Register (KR) said that a tripartite cooperation agreement has been concluded with  Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) and STX Energy Solution, a developer of SOFCs, hydrogen extractors and other renewable energy equipment. Each company would take advantage of its expertise and advantages to work out technical standards and carry out joint research to apply SOFC for ships.

STX Energy Solution is in charge of developing and supplying a SOFC system. DSME is responsible for land test evaluation, demonstration project planning and implementation. KR will evaluate and certify technical capabilities and enact related regulations.

Many vessel operators are switching to clean energy systems as the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a U.N. maritime safety agency, has adopted mandatory energy-efficiency measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from ships.

South Korean shipbuilders have jumped into the race to develop new SOFC systems. In January 2021, a crude carrier with a SOFC propulsion system developed by DSME won certification from the American Bureau of Shipping, a maritime classification society. Samsung Heavy Industries has partnered with Bloom Energy to develop core technologies for highly efficient SOFCs.

In early February, Shell, a global energy and petrochemical group, teamed up with Doosan Fuel Cell and South Korea's Hyundai shipbuilding group to develop a SOFC  system for ships in 2025. The tripartite consortium aims to test a 600-kilowatt system as an auxiliary power unit on actual trade routes for more than a year. 

Doosan Fuel Cell is developing a SOFC system that operates at 620 degrees Celsius. Lower temperatures dramatically increase the number of potential applications and provide the opportunity to incorporate a wider variety of materials in SOFC power generation systems with greater reliability and lower cost.

Shell is responsible for ordering and managing ships, operating ships, and managing a SOFC demonstration project. Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering (KSOE) affiliated with the Hyundai shipbuilding group will carry out installation, system modification and integration work. In March 2021, Doosan Fuel Cell partnered with the shipbuilding group to co-develop a megawatt-class SOFC system for vessels that will use liquefied natural gas to have a power output of more than 40 percent compared to conventional diesel engines.

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