Archive for the ‘Express 176’ Category

Is Hydrogen the Answer to Sailing the Seven Seas in Zero Emission Ships?

Posted by Ken on October 9, 2012
Posted under Express 176

Zero emission ships may soon sail the seven seas, with the successful trial of the hydrogen fuel cell powered Viking Lady as part of the Norwegian FellowSHIP project. Ships powered by this technology has the clear advantage of emitting no NOx, SOx and particulate matter, and depending on how the hydrogen is produced, significant or complete reduction in CO2 emissions. However, at current level of development, it is still facing challenges in cost and weight which have to be managed before achieving commercial viability. Read more

Hydrogen fuels cells the future maritime fuel

From Ctech (23 September 2012):

Wide spread use of hydrogen fuel cell technology is still some way off in the international maritime industry.

However as recent success on the Viking Lady as part of the Norwegian FellowSHIP project showed, there is the real potential for application in large scale commercial maritime operations.

Additionally, two further hydrogen fuel cell powered concept vessels have been released. Fathom has taken a look at what the state of play is for hydrogen fuel cell technology and when it might see wide spread application.

There are clear advantages to the technology including the elimination of NOx, SOx and particulate matter. Dependent on how the hydrogen is produced there is also a significant or complete reduction in CO2 emissions.

Additionally the technology is associated with insignificant noise and vibration levels and lower maintenance levels as compared to traditional combustion engines; certainly an advantage for ferry and cruise ship applications.

However, challenges remain with a real need to decrease investment costs, improve service lifetime, and reduce the current size and weight of fuel cell installations before the technology could really be considered truly commercially viable.

Costs of installation

Fuel cell prices vary significantly between different fuel cell technologies and it is expected that investment costs will never compete directly with combustion engines (rather the lifetime costs installation and operation) must be considered.

At the current time installation costs of a combustion engine are in the region of 3-400$/kW. For fuel cells, lowest installation costs at the current time have been estimated in the region of $3000$/kW. A target goal of $1,500$/kW is cited as the development goal for commercialisation of fuel cells (Excombe 2008). Fuel cell producers estimate that this will be achieved between 2020 and 2025.

Cost of Operation

Whilst the daily maintenance requirements for fuel cells are minimal, stack replacement is necessary due to performance degradation.  Fuel cell lifetime is gradually increasing with a goal of fuel stack replacement every five years whilst the remaining balance of the plant will typically have a 20-year lifetime.

What is Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology?

Basic Principles of Fuel Cell Technology courtesy of Fuel Cell Today.

The Fuel cell power pack consists of a fuel and gas processing system and then a stack of fuel cells that convert the chemical energy of the fuel to electric power through electrochemical reactions. The process can be thought of as similar to that of a battery.

There are several types of fuel cells all requiring either pure hydrogen or fuel that can be converted to hydrogen and CO either prior to entering the fuel cell or inside the fuel cell itself. In the short-term therefore, options are restricted to fuels such as methanol or LNG.

There are also projects looking at whether marine diesel oil or heavy fuel oil could be converted although thus far these have proved unsuccessful.

Fuel Cell Technology on Ships

Although fuel cell technology is not new, and has been tested before on ships, the first large-scale fuel cell installation operating on board a merchant ship was carried out as part of the FellowSHIP Project.

The FellowSHIP project was led by DNV in conjunction with Eidesvik Offshore and Wärtsilä and MTU Onsite Energy.

For the project, a 330 kW fuel cell was successfully installed on board the Ediesvik offshore supply vessel, Viking Lady, and was in operation for more than 7000 hours.

A molten carbonate fuel cell (MCFC) was used that had been successfully demonstrated in several land-based installations. The technology, originally developed by MTU in Germany, was modified by the FellowSHIP project for operation in a marine environment.


The Viking Lady already uses LNG as the main fuel in the gas-electric propulsion system of Viking Lady meaning no additional fuel system was required to support the MCFC.

The ship’s electric propulsion system consumes fuel cell power equivalently to power provided by the main generators.

Although exact measurements of gas to grid efficiency were not possible, it was estimated to be 48.5% including internal consumption and 44.5% when DC/AC conversion was also counted for. A heat exchanger trialled increased the overall fuel efficiency to just above 55%.

The conclusions from the project were that with optimal system integration there would be the potential for increasing the electrical efficiency to close to 50% and the fuel efficiency up to 60%.

Hydrogen fuelled Zero Emissions Ship

However a vision for a zero emissions container feeder vessel was recently put forward by Germanischer Lloyd (GL).

The concept container vessel is envisaged as a full open-top 100TEU intake vessel with 150 reefer slots and a service speed of 15 knots.

There are two 5MW fuel cell systems with 3MWH battery systems to provide peak power.

It has special tanks for holding liquid hydrogen and stops every 10 days at an offshore station for bunkering.

The liquid hydrogen (LH2) used for fuel would be produced using surplus wind energy at the offshore station.

Two recently opened plants in Germany have already have demonstrated using hydrogen to store surplus wind energy is viable technology.  The plants, now in operation for the better part of a year, use wind energy to generate Hydrogen through electrolysis.

The hydrogen form one plant is currently used to power vehicles and the other is fed directly in to the natural gas pipeline system

GL say that investment costs for the LH2-fuelled container feeder vessel are about 30% higher than for a conventional vessel.

They predict that the LH2-fuelled vessel may become economically attractive when MGO prices increase beyond 2.000 $/t.

A further hydrogen concept ship has been developed by FutureShip, GL’s consulting subsidiary, with a view to the strict limits in sulphur emissions due to come in into effect in 2015 in the Baltic Sea.

They have been working with ferry owner and operator Scandlines to help them develop a fuel-cell-driven concept design with for their Baltic ferry lines.

The resultant design is for a double-ended ferry for with space for 1,500 passengers and 2,200 lane-meters for vehicles. Located on deck, the hydrogen tanks can accommodate 140 m3—enough for a passage of 48 hours.

The fuel cells offer a rated power of 8,300 kW and the storage batteries a capacity of 2,400 kWh. The nominal speed of the ferries is set at 17 knots—the parameter used for sizing the fuel cells. To accelerate up to 18 knots, the four 3 MW pod drives draw additional current from the batteries. Flettner rotors on deck add to the energy efficiency of the design.

One of the main barriers to use of hydrogen fuel cells is the high cost, however the project above is proposed as a ‘cheaper’ alternative- not to other types of ships though but to a road transportation project.

There is currently a huge infrastructure project between Germany and Scandinavian countries (the Fehmarn Belt tunnel) which has been delayed since it was launched in 2010-2011.

It will link Germany and West Danish Islands which will create a shortcut to reach the Copenhagen Area and Sweden and is exaclty where Scandlines is currently operating its most profitable route.

The Scandlines proposition is for four of the ‘zero emission’ ferries that would provide an alternative by not only coping with the increasing traffic, but offering a more environmentally beneficial solution. Importantly the ferry alternative is projected to be significantly cheaper (gross cost of around 500M€ as opposed to 6Bn€).

At the current time however, it is only such specific projects that may be economically viable. Even the FellowSHip project recognise that it will take some time before fuel cells can become realistic on-board alternatives.

Nonetheless, it has been proved that the technology is viable and once that hurdle has been passed, it is usually only a matter of time until commercially cost viable products are launched.


More Asia Pacific Countries Commit to Carbon Cap & Trade Schemes

Posted by Ken on October 9, 2012
Posted under Express 176

More and more countries – particularly in the Asia Pacific – are realising that carbon trading, or cap-and-trade, schemes could be the answer to slow greenhouse gas pollution by limiting the legally allowable emissions by industries and business. Thailand and Vietnam are the latest to announce plans to launch emissions trading schemes. Reuters has completed a survey of country-wide or regional schemes underway or planned around the world, with varying degrees of coverage and targets. Read more

Factbox: Carbon trading schemes around the world

By Nina Chestney for Reuters (26 September 2012):

(Reuters) – Carbon trading schemes are emerging all over the world as governments try to meet greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets in the fight against climate change.

Thailand and Vietnam this week announced plans to launch emissions trading schemes. The European Union has agreed to link its own carbon market with Australia’s scheme in 2018 and has struck a deal with China to help with the design and implementation of its emissions trading schemes.

These moves are encouraging small steps towards a potential international scheme in the future, carbon analysts say.

Under cap-and-trade schemes, companies or countries face a carbon limit. If they exceed the limit they can buy allowances from others. They can also buy carbon offsets from outside projects which avoid emissions, often from developing countries.

Following is a list of established and emerging schemes:


1. Kyoto Protocol: Mandatory for 37 developed nations, excluding the United States which never ratified the pact. Launched: 2005. Covers: All six main greenhouse gases. Target: Five percent average cut in 1990 emissions in 2008-2012 first phase. How it works: Rich countries cut greenhouse gases at home or buy emissions rights from one other – if one country stays within its target it can sell the difference to another emitting too much. Or they can buy carbon offsets from projects in developing countries under Kyoto’s Clean Development Mechanism.

2. European Union Emissions Trading Scheme. Launched: 2005 Covers: Nearly half of all EU CO2 emissions, 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Mandatory for all 27 EU members, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Target: 21 percent emissions cut below 2005 levels by 2020. How it works: Member states allocate a quota of carbon permits to some 11,000 industrial firms and power plants. The lion’s share of permits are currently allocated for free but about half of permits will be auctioned from 2013. More than 3,000 airline operators joined the scheme in 2012. Firms can buy a limited number of U.N.-backed carbon emission offsets if that works out cheaper than cutting their own emissions.

3. New Zealand emissions trading scheme: Launched: 2010. Electricity generators, manufacturers and the transport sector hand over to the government a carbon permit for every second tonne of greenhouse gases they emit. A bill last month postponed indefinitely plans to phase-out free handouts of permits and include agriculture in the scheme.

4. Northeast U.S. states’ Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Launched: 2009. Covers: Carbon from power plants in nine northeast states. Target: Cut power sector emissions by 10 percent below 2009 levels by 2018.

5. Japan: Tokyo metropolitan trading scheme: Launched: 2010. Covers: Around 1,400 top emitters. Target: Japan aims to cut emissions by 25 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels. How it works: Tokyo city sets emissions limits for large factories and offices which can use technology such as solar panels and advanced fuel-saving devices.

6. Australia domestic emissions reduction scheme. Launched: July 2012. 300 of the biggest polluters, from coal plants to smelters, initially pay A$23($23) per tonne of CO2 emitted. They are banned from using U.N. carbon offsets until the system is replaced by a nationwide carbon trading scheme in July 2015 but can use a limited number of domestic credits. The EU has agreed to link its ETS with Australia’s scheme by 2018.


1. Californian scheme. Launch: 2013. Covers: Emissions from power plants, manufacturing and, in 2015, transportation fuels. Target: Cut the state’s emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. How it works: Polluters receive 90 percent of permits they need to cover emissions for free at the outset and remaining permits to be offered at quarterly auctions, which begin this November.

2. Western Climate Initiative (WCI). Launch: 2013. Covers: California and Quebec. Target: Cut emissions 15 pct below 2005 levels by 2020. How it works: Polluters such as power plants would have to buy offsets to cover their emissions. Transport included in 2015.

3. South Korea emissions trading scheme. Launch: 2015. Covers: Around 500 companies, collectively responsible for 60 percent of the country’s annual emissions. Target: Government has set a 2020 emissions reduction target of 30 percent below forecast “business as usual” levels

4. Mexican voluntary CO2 trading scheme. Launch: Unknown A commission has authority to implement a cap-and-trade system to help regulated sectors meet emissions cut targets which will eventually be set but the creation of a carbon market is not mandatory. Target: Mexico aims to cut emissions by 30 percent from business-as-usual levels by 2020.

5. Taiwan carbon offset scheme. Launch: Unknown. Covers: Nearly 270 companies responsible for more than half of Taiwan’s greenhouse gas pollution have agreed to supply emissions data to the government to help it launch a carbon offset scheme. Target: Taiwan aims to cut CO2 to 2005 levels by 2020.

6. India: mandatory energy efficiency trading scheme. Launch: Trading is set to begin in 2014 after a three-year rollout period. Covers: Eight sectors responsible for 54 percent of India’s industrial energy consumption. Target: India has pledged a 20-25 percent reduction in emissions intensity from 2005 levels by 2020.

7. China: Pilot carbon trading schemes in seven provinces and cities – Beijing, Chongqing, Guangdong, Hunan, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Tianjin. Launch: Some as early as 2013. They will cover energy production and various energy-intensive industries. Officials have said a national scheme might not emerge this decade as China plans to launch additional test schemes in 2016. Target: Cut CO2 emissions per unit of GDP to 40-45 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

8. Thailand: voluntary emissions market. Launch: October 2014. Sectors not specified but government said it will discuss emissions targets with participants.

9. Vietnam: national scheme. Launch: By 2018. Details not yet revealed. Target: Cut greehnhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP by 8-10 percent below 2010 levels by 2020.

Sources: Reuters, Thomson Reuters Point Carbon

Last Word: One Small Step

Posted by Ken on October 9, 2012
Posted under Express 176

In face of all the doom and gloom surrounding the plight of the planet, the concerned folks on the ground often find themselves overwhelmed and in despair of what can be realistically done to help the world get back on its feet. However, all that is required is to start with just one small step – to do one thing differently – and then another and so on. By harnessing the collective action of everyone in the world, from switching off the computer at night to fixing a leaking tap, we can shift the world onto a path towards a greener and friendlier future. Nigel Morris found it worked for him and he’s busy getting others on board. Read more

By Nigel Morris in renew Economy on 29 September 2012

On the tail end of whirlwind tour around the country to present at EcoGen MasterClasses, I had my own little epiphany around some of the issues that our industry faces today.

I remembered the principle of taking just one step.

Almost 25 years ago, I was working in a car factory making automotive parts and was invited to see a leading environmentalist speak at a dinner. (I think it was Amory Lovins but can’t recall exactly). Climate change was new to the majority, I was only vaguely aware because I was in Europe not long after Chernobyl, so was pretty upset about Nukes at the time and how they spoiled the Tomatoes on my trip(true!)

I listened with great interest to that speech and then thought “Christ; it’s me, I am the problem! I make cars during the day, fix motorbikes in the evening and race motorcycles for fun on weekends.” Shattered and disheartened, at the end I asked a question “I accept what you are saying but I only know what I know; I have to make a living. We still need cars and I’m passionate about motorbikes. What hope is there, what on earth can I do, or for that matter what can anyone do?”

In a stroke of genius, he responded simply; “Do one thing Nigel. Just go home and do one thing differently, take a small step. Start there. When it’s normal and happens unconsciously, take another step and just keep going. Imagine if everyone in the world took just one step, together, today. The world would shift on its axis”

I went home and started recycling as my first step. Then I realised I could afford a more efficient soaking hose and knew how to fix taps, so I fixed a leak and bought a  better hose and saved water. I had 3 steps down in 24hours and was away.

This simple statement is still my ethos. I’m not a purist, I’ve stopped looking for perfectionism and am far from perfect. I call myself an environmental realist. But every time I can take one step, I do. In 25 years, I’ve taken thousands of steps and they are now all normal in my day to day life. A few weeks ago I took a leap and started commuting on my electric motorcycle. And so the process continues.

This experience, and the “take one step” theory has a lot of merit in the PV industry too.

During the classes this week, I heard from hundreds of companies from across the industry. Universally, the entire market it seems, is battling a Goliath in the form of networks companies and stakeholders who are faced with diminishing returns as a result of PV. I believe they will come around, but in the meantime life is hard if you want to connect Commercial PV.

“How do you respond and deal with this?” was a common question. One client rang me this week with an increasingly common story “100kW system ready to go in, network company says ok, but we need $78,000 to put some frequency control gear in, just in case”. At 25% or so of the project cost that is utterly ridiculous, probably unwarranted and quite possibly already being paid for through standing charges anyway. But being a monopoly, you have to lump it.

But my enterprising client “took one step”. He thought outside the box, got the specification, got an alternative quote and will be able to do it for perhaps a third of the cost of what the network company thought was reasonable.

Next time, his path will be easier.

And if it works, the network company might even take a step too. They might realise it was uncalled for and excessive and adjust their policy; a little bit of something being better than nothing. And the process continues.

Solar systems have long been lauded as being great at prompting these simple, behavioural step changes too. As a solar owner understanding energy consumption, tariffs and conservation in general starts to become intrinsic; I’ve seen it time and time again.  Maybe we need bumper stickers that say “solar owners are smarter”.

And this week I realised it applies to EV’s as well.

Commuting to work I came across the mandatory octogenarian, struggling to see over the wheel and navigate the slightest bump or turn in the road. 30km’s an hour is all that is needed, thank you very much.

Now my normal reaction would be a deft overtaking maneuver, dispensing said octogenarian into a cloud of my “I’m-off-to-work-to-save-the-world-don’t-you-know” exhaust fumes, but on this particular day, on my Zero Electric motorcycle, something happened.

It struck me that if I sat behind them, I’d get a tow from the draft of the car. If I gunned it, I’d sap precious energy. I had a choice to make. I could preserve my (now all too apparently) precious energy reserves and go further on a single charge. By psychologically limiting the energy available to me this damn EV was changing my behaviour.

Sure I could refill, but it’s not so easy as a tank full of ULP. And there’s the challenge of “how far can I get this thing to go”, which just doesn’t seem to apply when fuel is in seemingly limitless supply and so readily available as a consumer.

That I realised, is exactly the same thing that happens with solar system ownership.

So instead, I sat back, enjoyed the absolute peace and quiet and coasted all the way along Manly beach at 20-30km/hr.  I realised I had consumed as good as Zero energy to do the same trip that would have normally taken a good gulp of ULP and had taken another small step.

I’ve said many times before, I’m an optimist; it’s true.

I just can’t help thinking that while it won’t be a smooth ride all the way, the “one small step” theory has to be slowly but surely building in Australia’s collective consciousness; be it from solar ownership, ease of access to more efficient products, tension between installers and networks or owning electric motorcycles.

I reckon, just quietly, the world is actually changing around us, and we might not even be able to see it.