An innovation project looking to install the world’s first ammonia-powered fuel cell on a ship has been awarded ten-million-euro funding from the European Union. The offshore vessel involved is the Viking Energy, which will receive a two-megawatt fuel cell.

The Viking Energy is owned and operated by Eidesvik and on contract to energy major Equinor. After the retrofit, it will be able to sail on the fuel cell alone for up to 3000 hours annually. Goal of the project is to demonstrate that long-range zero-emission voyages with high power on larger ships is possible.

Upscaling from 100 kilowatt to two megawatts

It is the first time an ammonia-powered fuel cell will be installed on a vessel. The fuel cell is to deliver total electric power to shipboards systems. A significant part of the project will be the scale up of a 100-kilowatt fuel cell to two megawatts.

The fuel cell is tested on land in a parallel project and development and construction will be undertaken by Prototech. Testing will be executed at the Sustainable Energy Norwegian Catapult Centre. The ship-side ammonia system will be supplied by Wärtsilä.

The ammonia fuel cell system will be installed on board the Viking Energy in late 2023.

Project partners

The ShipFC project is being run by a consortium of fourteen European companies and institutions, co-ordinated by the Norwegian cluster organisation NCE Maritime CleanTech. It has been awarded backing from the EU’s Research and Innovation programme Horizon 2020 under its Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU).

The project represents the latest stage in the long running collaboration between Equinor, Eidesvik and Wärtsilä. The three companies collaborated on a number of environmental and cleantech projects over the years. Viking Energy was the first LNG powered ocean-going vessel in 2003, and Eidesvik and Wärtsilä also collaborated on the 2009-built Viking Lady, another LNG-fuelled vessel that was seen as a milestone in the transition of shipping with its installation of fuel cells and marine batteries.

Norwegian crop nutrition company Yara has been contracted to supply the green ammonia, which will be produced by electrolysis and delivered to Viking Energy containerised to enable easy and safe refuelling.

Other vessel types

Another part of the ShipFC project will perform studies on three other vessel types, namely offshore construction vessels and two cargo vessel types, to illustrate the ability to transfer this technology to other segments of the shipping industry.