MSC Cruises, Chantiers de l’Atlantique to Develop LNG-Powered Fuel Cells

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MSC Cruises and Chantiers de l’Atlantique have unveiled a potentially groundbreaking project to develop an LNG-operated fuel cell on board a cruise ship that could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from LNG-powered ships even further.

The technology, known as a Solid Oxide Fuel Cell, would be a world first for the cruise sector. The fuel cell, which will run on LNG, operates at a higher temperature (around 750 degrees C) and is more efficient for high-power applications.

According to MSC Cruises, the SOFC technology could offer electrical efficiency by up to 60 percent as the heat produced can be self-consumed on board. This helps reduce GHG emissions by about 30 percent compared with a conventional LNG engine, with no emission of nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides or fine particles. The technology also comes with the advantage of being compatible with other fuel types, such as methane, methanol, ammonia, and hydrogen, among others, MSC Cruises says.

The R&D project, named PACBOAT, was announced during a steel cutting ceremony for MSC Cruises’ new MSC Europa, the first of five new LNG-powered cruise ships for MSC Cruises. The ceremony coincided with Chantiers de l’Atlantique’s delivery of MSC Grandiosa, one of the most environmentally-advanced cruise ships in the world, featuring a hybrid “closed-loop” scrubber and selective catalytic reduction system which helps reduce nitrogen oxide by 80 percent.

“With each new ship, each time we will push the boundaries of innovation in terms of environmental technology,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Cruises’ Executive Chairman. “And, we will specifically focus our R&D investment into accelerating the development of next-generation advanced solutions and other technologies – from more alternative fuels, shore power availability, batteries, fuel cells and beyond. All of this while we retrofit and upgrade our existing fleet – one of the most modern at sea – with the latest and best available technologies to continuously improve our environmental performance fleet-wide.” 

MSC Cruises is investing about $5.5 billion on the construction of the five LNG-powered ship. The 205,700 GT MSC Europa will enter into service in May 2022. It is the first four World Class ships to constructed at the French shipyard, with others following in 2024, 2025 and 2027. MSC Cruises’ Meraviglia-Plus ship will also be powered by LNG it enters into service in 2023.