Innovative drive systems for Zero-Emission vessels

Emission reduction was, is and will be one of the biggest biggest innovation challenges for the maritime industry.

It was mentioned in one of the previous articles that the transition to zero emissions requires innovative drive systems.

According to Bernardete Goncalves Castro, Project Manager R&D at Royal IHC, these systems will become more complex to accommodate the use of alternative ‘clean’ fuels.

There are yet many uncertainties about how these drive systems will look, but two aspects are certain.

The drive systems of zero-emission vessels will be electric, and fuel cells will be introduced as the main power supply, replacing combustion engines in many applications.

Moving from internal combustion engines

The recent rise of LNG (liquefied natural gas) dual fuel engines was a first step in the maritime energy transition, resulting in lower emissions.

There are many developments taking place in internal combustion engine technology such as advanced engine control, dual fuel combinations (diesel-hydrogen and diesel-methanol), and new single fuel engines (methanol and ammonia).

These developments will decrease emissions still further and improve the control of the combustion process in engines, pushing efficiency to its limits.

Despite these developments, the maximum efficiency achievable by combustion engines is limited to about 50% due to the physical limits of the overall process. This is where fuel cells become interesting as power supply technology.

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Photo: Royal IHC

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