Samsung Heavy Industries and Bloom Energy have Signed a joint development agreement to develop zero-emission cargo ships

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Samsung Heavy Industries LNG Carrier, ⓒ Samsung Heavy Industries

Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) and Bloom Energy (NYSE: BE) have signed a joint development agreement (JDA) to design and develop eco-friendly ships using Bloom’s fuel-cell technology. They will cooperate to actualize their vision of eco-friendly power for vessels and a more sustainable maritime shipping industry. Head of SHI’s technology development headquarters Chung Hohyun, and Bloom founder and Chief Executive Officer K.R. Sridhar held an event to celebrate the signing of the agreement by connecting Geoje Shipyard with Bloom Energy’s headquarters in California via video meeting.

The Signing Ceremony ⓒ Samsung Heavy Industries
Bloom Energy and Samsung Heavy Industries bringing clean energy to the sea ⓒ Bloom Energy

Under the joint development agreement, SHI has a plan to develop eco-friendly ships that will lead the future of the industry

Samsung Heavy Industry (SHI) and Bloom Energy (BE) said that they will replace all existing main engine and generator engines with solid oxide fuel cells to meet the International Maritime Organization (IMO)’s environmental targets over the next several years. IMO has continued commitment to reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from international ships and phasing them out. According to IMO’s GHG study, maritime operation emits approximately 940 million tonnes of CO2 yearly and accounts for about 2.5% of GHG emissions. By Bloomberg, said K.R. Sridhar CEO of Bloom Energy, “COVID has clearly shown very starkly that, while we have been focused strongly on the carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere, in reality, the air-polluting emissions which cause tremendous harm to our health — our lungs — are particulates: SOx [sulfur oxides] and NOx [nitrogen oxides] and so on. It’s one of those ignored stories.” Moreover, in Bloom Energy announcement, “By signing this joint development agreement, SHI has a plan to develop eco-friendly ships that will lead the future of the industry,” said Mr. Haeki Jang, vice president of shipbuilding & drilling sales engineering at SHI. “Our goal is to replace all existing main engines and generator engines with these highly efficient solid oxide fuel cells to align with the International Maritime Organization’s 2030 and 2050 environmental targets.”

Fuel Cell-Powered Ships ⓒ Bloom Energy

Being the first shipbuilder to secure the marine fuel cell technology will give a chance to lead the shipbuilding market shortly.

Samsung Heavy Industry has strived to be the first shipbuilder to deliver a large cargo ship powered by fuel cells running on natural gas in the hope that it will play a key role in helping exceed the 50 percent emission reduction target that IMO has mandated all shipbuilders should achieve by 2050. As IMO phases GHG emissions out step by step, the introduction of fuel cells to ships is inevitable for future sustainable shipping industry. Being the first shipbuilder to secure the marine fuel cell technology will give a chance to lead the shipbuilding market shortly. SHI and BE have already taken an important step towards commercializing the maritime use of fuel cells for propulsion and auxiliary power and SHI received Approval in Principle from DNV GL, the internationally accredited marine shipping registrar and classification society in partnership with BE to proceed with a fuel-cell-powered ship design for Aframax crude oil tankers (COTs).

A woman masked ⓒ Obera France

The marine transport accounts for approximately 2.5 percent of global carbon emissions, the sixth-largest producer of greenhouse gas emission

With 80 percent of the world’s shipping fleet running on bunker oil, the combustion of this fuel to provide propulsion and auxiliary power to vessels causes the maritime transport industry to produce about 2.5 percent of global carbon emissions, which is the sixth-largest producer of GHG emissions in the world. Replacing the combustion of bunker oil, therefore, with the electrochemical conversion of liquified natural gas (LNG) through fuel cells could have a profound impact on carbon emissions from marine transportation. SHI and BE estimate that replacing oil-based power generation on large cargo vessels, which require up to 100 megawatts of power per ship, could lessen annual GHG emissions from shipping by 45 percent. As combustion of bunker oil fuel also emits sulfur and particulate matter causing respiratory illness, a 2018 study showed that pollution from shipping causes serious repercussions for health including 14 million cases of childhood asthma annually and four hundred thousand premature deaths yearly from lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. In contrast to bunker fuel combustion, solid oxide fuel cells generate electric power through an electrochemical reaction that virtually excludes particulate emissions, NOx, and SOx without combustion at all. 

Bloom Energy Severs ⓒ Bloom Energy

Fuel cell-powered ships could transition from natural gas fuel to hydrogen fuel, becoming zero emitters, as nations and ports develop their hydrogen infrastructure

Bloom Energy has provided commercially available electricity generation device, the Bloom Energy Server, which delivers pollutant-free emissions and uses LNG, biogas, or hydrogen as fuel. BE and SHI envision onboard fuel cells being powered by natural gas converted from LNG, which is commonly transported by marine shipping worldwide now. When Bloom Energy Servers can displace existing power generation sets, compared to large conventional combustion engines, it is expected to reduce the total space required for power generation, enabling power sources to be distributed throughout a ship to optimize space utilization. Bloom Energy also announced the capability of its fuel cells to run on hydrogen last year, when BE observed that fuel cell-powered ships could transition from natural gas fuel to hydrogen fuel and become zero-carbon and zero-smog emitters, as nations and ports develop their hydrogen infrastructure.

Green Hydrogen ⓒ dreamstime

Korea’s big three shipbuilders rush to develop eco-friendly vessels amid tightened emission regulations on emissions of GHG

Samsung Heavy Industries is actively participating in relevant activities to help build zero-emission fuel cell ships whilst Bloom energy has created a committed cross-functional team of engineers for the project, the two companies aiming to present their new designs to potential customers in 2022. Not only Samsung Heavy Industry but major Korean shipbuilders are hastening to develop eco-friendly power systems for ships to secure more deals amid tightened emission regulations. Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) and its holding company Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering Co. also set up a center in March in Ulsan, Korea to develop ships that are powered by both LNG engines and fuel cells by late 2021. HII got approval for the design of a crude carrier with the LNG-fuel cell-propelled engine system from DNV-GL in March 2019, which enables HHI to receive an order with this system. Another leading shipbuilder in Korea, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME), has started developing a lithium-ion energy storage system, another eco-friendly energy system for ships. DSME signed a contract with Hanwha Defense to develop the lithium-ion energy storage system that helps reduce GHG emissions for ships. 

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