Large molten carbonate fuel cells for ships and clean power

Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell (MCFC) are being developed by the European-funded MC WAP research project as an alternative power supply for ships.

Molten carbonate fuel cells demand very high operating temperatures (600°C and above) and most applications for this kind of cell are limited to large, stationary power plants. The envisaged initial application is associated with waste heat, industrial processing, and in steam turbines to generate more electricity.

The MC WAP project has developed a molten carbon fuel cell which uses hydrogen obtained from a system that converts diesel oil into a hydrogen-rich gas, and air coming from the compressor of a microturbine. The reaction produces electricity and heat, without combustion.

The energy produced by the current system, corresponds to about 250 kilowatts, and represents one production unit of reserve energy that can power the essential systems on board, such as the control systems, communication, lighting and main auxiliary systems. Although at this time it will not power the propulsion, it will be able to contribute to it in some cases.

Nuclear power already powers hundreds of ships and submarines with clean power to over hundreds of megawatts in new aircraft carriers. Nuclear powered shipping has been operating for several decades.

Fuel cell powered ships could be used for smaller marine ships.

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