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Wärtsilä reports that its WFC20 fuel cell unit has been installed onboard the Undine, a car carrier, owned by Swedish Wallenius Lines and managed by Wallenius Marine. This power unit is claimed to be the first of its kind, and during the test period will provide auxiliary power to the vessel while producing close to zero emissions.

Wärtsilä's fuel cell unit WFC20

The fuel cell unit, which has a nominal output of 20 kW, is based on planar solid oxide fuel cell technology (SOFC), and fuelled with methanol. Methanol is said to be particularly suited for fuelling the WFC20 since it can be easily reformed to a composition suitable for the unit. Methanol can be produced from natural gas, or from renewable raw materials such as gasificated biomass. Methanol is a commonly used liquid in the oil and process industries, and is available in all major harbours.

Installation of the WFC20 fuel cell unit onboard the Undine is the result of a joint project by the international METHAPU consortium. The participants in the consortium are Wärtsilä, Wallenius Marine, Lloyd's Register, Det Norske Veritas, and the University of Genoa, each of whom is globally active in the field of fuel cell system integration, sustainable shipping, classification work or environmental assessment. The project has been funded with € 1 million from the European Union, and is part of the European Community Framework Programme (FP6).

The principal aim of the METHAPU project has been to validate and demonstrate new technologies for global shipping that can reduce the environmental impact of vessels. In addition, a further major aim is to establish the necessary international regulations for the use of methanol onboard commercial vessels, and to allow the use of methanol as a marine fuel.

"The development of sustainable sea transportation is a long term target and one that Wallenius Marine is strongly committed to. The METHAPU project supports this vision, not only through developing sustainable fuel cell technology for commercial transportation applications, but also by providing the opportunity to utilize a new renewable marine fuel. Furthermore, Wärtsilä's deep expertise in SOFC fuel cell technology provides us with a solid platform from which to gain useful experience for the future," says Per Croner, president, Wallenius Marine.

The Undine, with the Wärtsilä FC20 unit installed, sailed from the German port of Bremerhaven in May. From there it has headed for the USA, via Sweden and the UK. The validation process carried out at sea will provide excellent feedback and valuable information for the future development of this technology for marine environment applications.

Wartsila says that fuel cells are considered to be one of the most exciting energy technologies for the future. In addition to methanol, the company’s fuel cells can efficiently employ various gases as fuel and produce almost zero nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulphur oxide (SOx) and particulate emissions.

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