SEA-KIT International, designer and builder of Uncrewed Surface Vessels (USVs), has won funding to install an innovative PCB-based hydrogen fuel cell, engineered by project partner Bramble Energy, on its 12m USV Maxlimer to demonstrate zero emission maritime operations.
SEA-KIT secured the grant through the recent Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (CMDC) – Strand 2. The project, funded by the Department for Transport (DfT) working with InnovateUK, will showcase a successful diesel to hydrogen conversion of SEA-KIT’s proven USV design and demonstrate a route to fulfilling the UK’s Clean Maritime Plan Strategy commitment of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from shipping by at least 50 per cent by 2050.
“SEA-KIT USVs have a dual diesel-electric hybrid drive, with propulsion coming from an electric motor powered by battery banks that are charged by in-situ diesel generators,” said Ben Simpson, SEA-KIT CEO. “This project will replace one of the diesel generators with new hydrogen fuel cell technology from Bramble Energy and demonstrate an offshore operation with zero carbon emissions.”
West Sussex-based Bramble Energy, a disruptor in the clean tech space, will design and manufacture a marinised, customised version of its printed circuit board fuel cell (PCBFC).The use of PCBs, as opposed to metallic or graphite end plates, makes the technology more
suited to rugged, marine environments. Bramble Energy’s PCBFC system will sit inside an enclosure within the USV to prevent sea water ingress and corrosion.
SEA-KIT will retrofit its demonstration vessel, USV ‘Maxlimer’, with the hydrogen fuel system. Data gathered from bench testing and sea trials will be utilised for the design and build of similar USVs, as well as for larger uncrewed vessel builds in the near future.
USVs are already being deployed for a range of commercial tasks, including geophysical survey, offshore inspections, surveillance and coastal asset monitoring. This collaboration between SEA-KIT and Bramble Energy aims to enable the emergence of hydrogen fuel systems as another viable option for the fast-growing USV market.