The first ship “Viking Lady” to employ a 320 kW Molton Carbonate fuel fuel cell in history docked  at the Copenahgen  Nyhavn at Kvaesthusmolen pier. Shipping is now responsible for roughly three percent of global emissions of greenhouse gases, or more than one billion metric tons of carbon dioxide every year, along with smog-forming nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides and soot. In fact, emissions of nitrogen oxides from one ship burning diesel in a year are greater than those from 22,000 cars. That’s because ships burn bunker fuel or diesel to cleave through the waves but, according to Tor Svensen, CEO of Det Norske Veritas (DNV) Maritime, “it is possible for shipping to reduce emissions, even taking into account growth in world trade.” In fact, ships could reduce emissions of CO2 by 500 million metric tons by 2030 while increasing profits, according to an analysis done by DNV. After all, fuel costs for a tanker ship are fully 41 percent of its total operating costs. A tax on CO2 emissions of just $15 would drive cuts of 700 million metric tons, according to Svensen. Energy savings of as much as 40 percent can be achieved through better hull design, more efficient engines and even the type of paint used on the ship. “Just by polishing the propeller occasionally, one can do a lot,” says Alte Palomaki, a spokesman for ship and turbine-maker Wartsila Corporation. But in the case of the 5,900 metric ton Viking Lady, Norwegian shipping company Eidesvik and its partners have gone further, installing a 320-kilowatt molten carbonate fuel cell that operates on liquefied natural gas (and can be reconfigured, if necessary, to run on methanol). Storage tanks for the hydrogen and carbon dioxide that gets the fuel cell started press up against the stern of the 92.2 meter-long ship (in case of explosion) as do the machines to regasify the fuel. The fuel cell operates at 650 degrees Celsius and is warm to the touch, even on a blustery, frigid day in Copenhagen’s harbor.

Already, liquefied natural gas is cheaper than diesel—if you can find it. Engineer and project developer Kjell Sandaker of Eidesvik notes there are as many as 15 such fueling stations along the Norwegian coast and the bright orange Viking Lady gases up once a week as its onboard turbines also directly burn the gas to supply electricity to the engines, though they can also burn diesel if necessary. The ship’s 220 cubic meter tank can hold roughly 90 metric tons of liquefied natural gas at a time.