Bureau Veritas have developed comprehensive new guidelines covering the safe application of fuel cells on ships. There are several different types of fuel cell technology, using different types of fuel. BV has found that the use of hydrogen, for example, offers a number of significant advantages, not least the fact that there is an unlimited resource in atomic form and that it delivers a higher chemical energy per unit mass than does natural gas, and is non-toxic, non-polluting and non-poisonous.
BV is currently participating in the Green Tug project, an initiative led by the Offshore Ship Designers Group (the Netherlands) to produce a new design for a near-zero-emission hydrogen-powered tug. While achieving a significant reduction in exhaust emissions, the fuel cell technology used in the new tug design also helps to increase propulsion efficiency by roughly 70% compared to a conventional diesel-direct drive installation.
The goal of the BV guidelines is to provide criteria for the arrangement and installation of machinery for propulsion and auxiliary purposes using fuel cell installations, which have an equivalent level of integrity in terms of safety, reliability and dependability as that which can be achieved with new and comparable conventional oil-fuelled main and auxiliary machinery. The guidelines currently have preliminary status and are subject to internal and external review. After taking into account all relevant feedback, they will be published as a Bureau Veritas Guidance Note entitled 'Guidelines for fuel cell systems on board commercial ships’.
The guidelines are primarily intended for application to new ships but can also be used for retrofitting fuel cell systems on existing ships, on a case-by-case basis. They are to be used in addition to all relevant SOLAS provisions. There is no limit on the type or power of the applied fuel cell system, and no limitation on the type of gas used, although the guidelines may focus on natural gas and hydrogen as fuels.