Svitzer Ventures Into Methanol Fuel Cell Tug Development

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  • Towage operator Svitzer, which is part of A.P. Moller – Maersk, has signed an agreement with naval architect Robert Allan.
  • The agreement aims at designing a fuel cell tug for harbour operations which runs on green methanol.

A recent news article published in the Bunkerspot states that Svitzer to develop methanol fuel cell Tug.

What is the agreement all about?

Announcing the agreement, Svitzer said the project builds on its close cooperation with Maersk in exploring the potential for methanol fuel cells, batteries, storage/handling systems, electric drives and propulsion units as a carbon neutral alternative to the conventional fossil fuelled propulsion train.

For Maersk, the initiative also marks another foray into methanol-fuelled shipping.

As previously reported, in June this year the company placed an order with Hyundai Mipo Dockyards for the construction of a 2,100 TEU-capacity feeder vessel, which will hit the water in 2023.

This was followed in August with the announcement of an order for eight 16,000 TEU methanol-fuelled containerships, with an option for a further four, to be built by Hyundai Heavy Industries.

These vessels will be delivered from 2024.

80 tons bollard pull newbuild tug

The planned 80 tons bollard pull newbuild tug with escort notation will have a hybrid electrical propulsion system solution where, says Svitzer, fuel cells can be ‘dimensioned to deliver a specific amount of sustained bollard pull using fuel cells alone, adding additional power from the batteries during the short but often frequent peaks that characterises towage.’

The fuel cells can be used to charge the batteries when the tug is operating and when the tug is berthed, minimising the need for shore side charging facilities.

Svitzer highlights that the combination of fuels cells and batteries will deliver ‘a self-sustained tug with longer endurance and with less operational constraints than a pure battery powered vessel.’

Fuel cell technology could be a disruptor

Commenting on the project, Ole Graa Jakobsen, Maersk Head of Fleet Technology, said: ‘Fuel cell technology could be a disruptor in the maritime technology space, promising high efficiencies and eliminating the need for substantial amounts of pilot ignition fuels while removing harmful emissions.

‘Thus, we have been monitoring the technology for the last few years, and with the accelerating developments in the “Power-to-X” arena, it has become evident that we should step up our engagement in fuel cells, especially in combination with green methanol.’

Alternative to diesel or pure electric power

Ingrid Uppelschoten Snelderwaard, Svitzer’s Global COO, added: ‘Fuel cells will be applicable as main propulsion power for tugs earlier than for larger vessels and, further, the time to build a tug is significantly less than for a container vessel.

‘Svitzer will obtain valuable knowledge and operational experience handling fuel cells as an alternative to diesel or pure electric power. We consider this project a significant step in Svitzer’s ambition to lead the decarbonisation of towage and an important contribution to the joint efforts to develop solutions with a positive impact on the environment.’

The fuel cell tug, which will be used as a pilot design for future Svitzer newbuilds, is expected to enter operation within the Svitzer Europe region by Q1 2024.

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Source: Bunker Spot

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