Maersk and Svitzer to develop carbon neutral methanol fuel cell tug

Maersk and Svitzer to develop carbon neutral methanol fuel cell tug
Ingrid Uppelschoten Snelderwaard, global COO, Svitzer and Mike Fitzpatrick, president of Robert Allan. Image source: Svitzer

Svitzer, an A.P. Moller – Maersk subsidiary, has signed an agreement with Robert Allan to design the world’s first fuel cell tug for harbour operations, running on green methanol.

The project builds on close cooperation between Svitzer and Maersk with the aim to jointly explore the combination of methanol fuel cells, batteries, storage/handling systems, electric drives and propulsion units as a carbon neutral alternative to the conventional fossil fuelled propulsion train.

The 80 tons bollard pull newbuild tug with escort notation will come with a hybrid electrical propulsion system solution where fuel cells can be dimensioned to deliver a specific amount of sustained bollard pull using fuel cells alone, adding additional power from the batteries during the short but often frequent peaks that characterises towage. The fuel cells can be used to charge the batteries when the tug is mobilising and when the tug is berthed, minimising the need for expensive shore side charging facilities. The combination of fuels cells and batteries will deliver a self-sustained tug with longer endurance and with less operational constraints than a pure battery powered vessel.

Svitzer and Maersk are working closely together to determine technologies that support the overall Maersk decarbonisation journey. The objective is to extract and apply knowledge and operational experience of methanol feasibility from the near shore small scale tug onto larger ocean-going container vessels.

Ole Graa Jakobsen, Maersk head of fleet technology, said: “Fuel cell technology could be a disruptor in the maritime technology space, promising high efficiencies and eliminating the need for substantial amounts of pilot ignition fuels while removing harmful emissions. Thus, we have been monitoring the technology for the last few years, and with the accelerating developments in the ‘Power-to-X’ arena, it has become evident that we should step up our engagement in fuel cells, especially in combination with green methanol.”

The fuel cell tug will function as a pilot design for future Svitzer newbuilds and is planned to be put into operation within the Svitzer Europe region by Q1 2024.