China took a step forward in the race to develop commercial
hydrogen technology for the shipping industry. The China Classification Society
awarded China’s first certificate of type approval for a marine fuel cell
product. CCS says that the approval marks a major milestone in China’s pursuit
of commercially viable alternative fuels and provides a new channel for the use
of hydrogen fuel cells on ships.
The certificate was issued to PEM fuel cell supplier Troowin
Power System Technology Co. based in Wuhan, China. It was issued after more
than a review and on-site tests and is part of the overall effort being led by
CCS to research and develop hydrogen fuel cells. The project aligns with
China’s goal to reach carbon neutrality before 2060. Currently, considered to
be one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, China committed to
the United Nations to ensure that its greenhouse gas emissions peak in the next
“This certificate is the culmination of many years of work,”
said Jia Siqing, General Manager of Industrial Products for the CCS Wuhan
branch. He noted that CCS published its first guidelines on harnessing hydrogen
as a commercial marine fuel in 2015 with the guidelines updated in 2017 and
2020. CCS is currently conducting research to develop the first domestic
technical regulations for ships using hydrogen fuel, which it plans to release
at the end of 2021.
In the next phase of its hydrogen development, CCS says it
will undertake a series of tests on a purpose-built 2,100 dwt bulk carrier. The
ship is currently at the design stage and is expected to be powered by four
130kW hydrogen fuel cells. Once completed, the ship will operate trials along
the Pearl River in Guangdong province, where it will carry cargoes.
A major challenge CCS says it is looking to tackle during
the tests is storing enough hydrogen to take a ship on a deep-sea voyage said
Mr. Jia. CCS reports that it is researching ways to store hydrogen in large
quantities and combine it with other fuel sources to extend the range.
“Since hydrogen is the lightest natural element, more space
is needed to store it,” Jia said. “We are looking at methods to create hydrogen
at sea, such as the use of methanol or ammonia, which can be transported easily
and cheaply. But the main focus of our work is carrying enough bulk hydrogen,
for an entire voyage. We think liquid hydrogen would be a good contender for
this. In the meantime, high-pressure gas cylinders would be a reasonable
Luo Xiaofeng the Director of CSS Rules & Research
Institute in Wuhan said a prime objective of the Pearl River tests would be to
test safety procedures but that in the short-term, for deep-sea voyages,
low-carbon and hybrid systems are better forms of propulsion. New ships will
also permit the optimization of safety in the design as opposed to working to
retrofit hydrogen systems to the existing fleet.
“CCS is working with other hydrogen-use sectors and
universities to share the research notably the automotive industry,” said Luo.
“Breakthroughs elsewhere can help the marine industry. Safety is key to
developing a commercial case. These are the prime factors we will be testing on
the Pearl River project.”
In addition to researching various forms of marine hydrogen
fuel storage technology, CCS has also jointly carried out special research on
the application of hydrogen fuel on ships with China State Shipbuilding Corporation.
The research included risk assessment, ventilation, and fire-fighting. The
studies evaluated the feasibility, reliability and safety of hydrogen-fueled
ships and provided support for the development of technical regulations.