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In a world first, MSC Europa to get LNG-powered fuel cell

pierfrancesco vago + laurent castaing at MSC europa steel-cutting
MSC Cruises' Pierfrancesco Vago, left, with Chantiers de l'Atlantique's Laurent Castaing at the steel-cutting for MSC Europa PHOTO: Ivan Sarfatti
Chantiers de l’Atlantique is poised to integrate the first LNG-powered fuel cell aboard a cruise ship, MSC Europa. Steel was cut today for MSC Cruises’ newly named first World Class newbuild.

The 205,700gt MSC Europa will be the first LNG-powered cruise ship built in France.

Groundbreaking R&D project

At the steel-cutting, MSC and Chantiers de l'Atlantique unveiled a groundbreaking research and development project, PACBOAT, to integrate a fuel cell technology demonstrator on the ship, due for 2022 delivery.

With an output power of 50KW, this demonstrator will produce electricity and heat using liquefied natural gas, the fuel used to power MSC Cruises’ World Class ships.

The integration of a Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) technology on a cruise ship is a world first.

This technology, which operates at very high temperature (approximately 750° C), is the most efficient for high-power marine-like applications rather than the low-temperature Hydrogen-based Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell solutions used, for instance, in the automotive sector. The SOFC technology offers a very good electrical efficiency, up to 60%, and as the heat produced can be self-consumed on board, its total efficiency — heat and electricity — can be much higher, resulting in a direct reduction of energy consumption and, therefore, greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse-gas emissions 30% lower than a conventional LNG engine

This SOFC solution fueled by LNG would thus reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 30% compared to a conventional dual fuel LNG engine, with no emission of nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides or fine particles. In addition, it offers the advantage of being compatible with many fuels — LNG/methane, methanol, ammonia, hydrogen — and, thus, with their future low carbon versions.

‘We are pleased to be able to support this highly innovative project, as it further demonstrates our commitment to contributing to the development of next-generation advanced environmental technology for the benefit of the entire industry,’ MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago said. ‘This is a key element in our journey towards zero-emissions operations both at sea and ashore.’

Technology patented by French research center CEA

Led by Chantiers de l’Atlantique, PACBOAT is based on a cutting-edge SOFC technology developed and patented by CEA, a French public research center. It is funded by the French government's Investments for the Future Program and supported by ADEME, the French Environment and Energy Management Agency. Additionally, it is part of the Ecorizon R&D program dedicated to the energy and environmental efficiency of ships, launched in 2008 by Chantiers de l'Atlantique.

Entrepose Group, the France-based international contractor that designs, builds and operates production, transport and storage infrastructures for the oil and gas and other energy markets, will ensure the design and the construction of the demonstrator, whose installation and operation will be approved by classification society Bureau Veritas.

Toward zero-emission ships

Together with the other solutions developed under the Ecorizon program of Chantiers de l'Atlantique, this innovative solution will make it possible to exceed the future regulatory requirements for emissions for new ships by 2030 and 2050. It is also an important technological breakthrough toward zero-emission ships that will meet the ambition of the new European Commission to make Europe the first continent with a carbon neutral impact.