Viking Cruises developing cruise ship powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology

Cruise firm in talks with Statoil to source product from a Norwegian refinery.

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Updated on 29 Sep 2017 14:05 GMT

Viking Cruises is working on a project that could lead to the development of the world's first cruise ship with zero-emission technology.

The company's plans were revealed by Serge Fossati, project manager at Viking Cruises, during the Safety at Sea Conference in Haugesund, southern Norway, held on Thursday.

The ship will be around 230 metres long and fuelled by liquid hydrogen; a fuel cell will convert the hydrogen to electricity for propulsion and electric power on board.

So far, the use of liquid hydrogen as a marine fuel is a nascent technology. One of the technical challenges is to maintain the fuel at minus 253 degrees to keep it from evaporating. Another difficulty is the fact that hydrogen is a highly explosive gas, so protection against gas leaks is a key safety aspect.

In terms of production, liquid hydrogen is currently not produced on a large scale in Europe, but Fossati explained that Viking Cruises is in talks with Statoil to find a solution to source product from a Norwegian refinery.

"At Viking, we have always endeavoured to look forward and to be at the forefront with regard to green shipping. As a Norwegian and with Norwegian ships, we want to lead the way to zero-emission ships through fuel cell technology. The road to that point is still long, but here at Viking we want to be ahead of the game," remarked Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking Cruises.

Viking Cruises envisions constructing a vessel based on the same design as its sea-going cruise ships, such as the Viking Sun, which was delivered earlier this week.

The shipping company also wants to use Norwegian suppliers for the project as much as possible. Several tender ships to carry the fuel to the cruise ship are also part of the project.

"The ship will fly the Norwegian flag, which means that we have to vouch for the safety being just as good as on conventional ships. We believe that it is possible to solve those issues. We probably have a way to go before all the technical solutions are in place, but this is a very concrete project which has a high priority at Viking Cruises," remarked Olav Akselsen, Director General of Shipping and Navigation.

"If they pull this off, a distribution network may be established, which will enable others as well to use hydrogen as fuel, and could contribute to a zero-emission shipping industry," Akselsen added.

Other hydrogen projects

Bunker Index reported at the start of the year that TNO, Stedin, Smartport, Uniper, BP and Port of Rotterdam Authority are involved in a project that is looking into the technical and economic feasibility of producing hydrogen fuel at BP's Rotterdam refinery.

Meanwhile, back in November, PowerCell Sweden AB received its first marine order for two PowerCell S3 prototype stacks, which Maranda consortium partner Swiss Hydrogen S.A. is installing on a ship powered by photovoltaics. The vessel is to be supplied with a system that encompasses onboard production of hydrogen gas from solar electricity, storage of hydrogen gas and two 30-kW fuel cells.

In another project, PowerCell Sweden has teamed up with Hexagon Composites ASA and Nel ASA to create a one-stop-shop for customers wanting to utilize hydrogen technologies across the value chain - from renewable hydrogen production, storage, distribution and dispensing, to generating electricity via fuel cells.