London — ABB has signed a memorandum of understanding with Hydrogène de France to jointly manufacture megawatt-scale fuel cell systems capable of powering ocean-going vessels using hydrogen, the Swiss electrical engineering company said Wednesday.
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The agreement builds on ABB's 2018 collaboration with Canada's Ballard Power Systems, an early innovator in proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. Now ABB and HDF aim to optimize fuel cell manufacturing to produce a megawatt-scale power plant for marine vessels to be built at HDF's factory in Bordeaux, France.
"With the ever-increasing demand for solutions that enable sustainable, responsible shipping, we are confident that fuel cells will play an important role in helping the marine industry meet CO2 reduction targets," said Juha Koskela, managing director for ABB Marine & Ports.
Fuel cells turn the chemical energy from hydrogen into electricity through an electrochemical reaction. Using renewable electricity to produce hydrogen via electrolysis, the energy chain can be decarbonized.
Shipping is responsible for about 2.5% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.
The International Maritime Organization, the UN agency responsible for regulating shipping, has set a global target to cut annual emissions by at least 50% by 2050 from 2008 levels.
Fuel cells are already capable of powering ships sailing short distances, as well as supporting auxiliary energy requirements of larger vessels, ABB said.
HDF has its own product development agreement with Ballard, signed in December 2019. This initiative is focused on development of large-scale fuel cell systems for stationary power applications.