PowerCell Group, e1 Marine and Maritime Partners demonstrate first methanol-to-fuel cell power chain


As part of the validation of Maritime Partners, LLC’s M/V Hydrogen One inland pushboat, leading hydrogen fuel cell supplier PowerCell Group and methanol-to-hydrogen technology pioneer e1 Marine in partnership with RIX Industries have conducted a successful string test of their respective technologies for a 200kW propulsion chain. This chain can be multiplied and scaled to a megawatt level.

The result of the test proves the viability of a unique concept that takes methanol fuel and converts it to hydrogen onboard ships before using the hydrogen in a fuel cell to generate power cleanly and efficiently.

The system is the first of its kind and intended for use in many application segments such as tugboats, push-boats and superyachts. The M/V Hydrogen One’s 1.4MW methanol-to-hydrogen system is featured as the sole power generation source for its propulsion chain.

The string test was performed on land at PowerCell Group’s headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden, which involves assembling all of the key power-train components and testing them as a system.

The concept unlocks new opportunities for hydrogen-powered vessels by storing the fuel as methanol, which is less complex than using hydrogen. The conversion technology then transforms the methanol into fuel cell-ready hydrogen.

PowerCell Group has pioneered megawatt-scale fuel cell solutions for the maritime sector, which are fully marinised and adapted to the challenges of usage onboard ships. These cells use the hydrogen to generate power as this is the most energy-efficient method of extracting power from fuels. This would be one of the most effective means of using green methanol, produced from renewable energy, to enable a net zero-carbon solution.

The specifics of using a methanol hydrogen generator is that it outputs low-pressure hydrogen on demand when needed. This enables a safe installation and highly integrated solutions which have minimal impact on the overall vessel design and does not have to be installed on weather decks.

Richard Berkling, CEO at PowerCell Group, said: “The successful completion of these tests gives future ship owners, integrators and methanol suppliers the confidence they need in this powerful combination of technologies. Fuel cells are some of the most efficient ways to extract energy from fuel, and we are deploying them at a scale never seen before. This can be seen in our project with Torghatten Nord, where we will supply 12,8 MW fuel cells on Norway’s longest ferry route – the largest maritime project to date. This string test demonstrates that whatever the fuel, the new generation of fuel cells is ready to use it.”

Robert Schluter, Managing Director at e1 Marine, said: “This rigorous test has delivered exciting results thanks to a great deal of collaboration between equipment suppliers, and the results should be a cause for optimism across the industry. This test demonstrates that a methanol-to-hydrogen power chain is ready and waiting to deliver renewable power to a range of maritime applications.”

Austin Sperry, President and Co-Founder at Maritime Partners, said: “We too are pleased by the results and system validation, allowing the M/V Hydrogen One to hit the water in 2024.”