A review of fuel cell systems for maritime applications

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Progressing limits on pollutant emissions oblige ship owners to reduce the environmental impact of their operations. Fuel cells may provide a suitable solution, since they are fuel efficient while they emit few hazardous compounds. Various choices can be made with regard to the type of fuel cell system and logistic fuel, and it is unclear which have the best prospects for maritime application. An overview of fuel cell types and fuel processing equipment is presented, and maritime fuel cell application is reviewed with regard to efficiency, gravimetric and volumetric density, dynamic behaviour, environmental impact, safety and economics. It is shown that low temperature fuel cells using liquefied hydrogen provide a compact solution for ships with a refuelling interval up to a tens of hours, but may result in total system sizes up to five times larger than high temperature fuel cells and more energy dense fuels for vessels with longer mission requirements. The expanding infrastructure of liquefied natural gas and development state of natural gas-fuelled fuel cell systems can facilitate the introduction of gaseous fuels and fuel cells on ships. Fuel cell combined cycles, hybridisation with auxiliary electricity storage systems and redundancy improvements are identified as topics for further study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-364
JournalJournal of Power Sources
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Emissions
  • Fuel cells
  • Fuel processing
  • Logistic fuels
  • Maritime application
  • Ships


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