The FellowSHIP Project, joint industry R&D project experimenting with fully integrated fuel cells on board vessels and offshore platforms – said today that it is entering into the third phase of its research that will integrate battery pack power directly into the vessels power system providing a true hybrid experience.

Since 2009, the Eidesvik Offshore-owned Viking Lady has run for more than 18,500 hours powered by a complement of LNG-fuel and onboard fuel cell technology with an electrical output of 330 kW.  The combination has already made her one of the world’s most environmentally friendly ships and now the FellowSHIP project plans on taking its potential even further by introducing energy storage capabilities directly to the energy system, versus through the external fuel cell that was installed previously.

Once the battery pack is in place, the Viking Lady will operate using a hybrid system with the potential for even higher emission reductions and shorter return on investment.

“We know that the hybrid system will reduce the energy consumption” says Bjørn-Johan Vartdal, Project Manager from Det Norske Veritas (DNV), one of three partners making up the FellowSHIP project team.  “When operating, for example, on dynamic positioning, there will be a major fuel saving potential. When in harbour, too, the ship should be able to operate on the fuel cell and its battery power alone, which will reduce emissions significantly. For environmentally sensitive areas, this will be an essential benefit. Additional benefits are related to reductions in machinery maintenance costs and in noise and vibrations.”

The project estimates that the potential benefits of the hybrid energy system could be 20 to 30 percent reduction in overall fuel consumption and CO2 emissions through smoother and more efficient operation between engines and fuel cell.  Furthermore, the return on investment period for the hybrid system is estimated to be less than two years, welcomed news for shipowners currently facing record-high fuel costs and more stringent emission guidelines.

But actual fuel savings and emission reduction figures are yet to be seen.  The FellowSHIP project is conducting a comprehensive measurement program to verify the potential benefits.

FellowSHIP (Fuel Cells for Low Emission Ships) is a joint industry R&D project experimenting with fully integrated fuel cells on board vessels and offshore platforms with the goal of making them commercially viable.  Funded solely by the Research Council of Norway, the FellowSHIP project is made up of industry partners including Eidesvik Offshore, providing the ship, Wärtsilä, providing the power, and DNV, providing the class rules.