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Expleo develops closed-loop SOFC solution for shipping

Expleo develops closed-loop SOFC solution for shipping
Paul Burns (left), Chief Engineer; Jonathan Taylor, VP- Marine; and Andy King, Head of Commercial Marine, Expleo (photo courtesy Gareth Jones).

In the UK, France-headed global engineering, technology, and consultancy service provider Expleo Group SAS (Expleo) has announced that it has developed an innovative closed-loop SOFC solution for global shipping that it says delivers a 92 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and OPEX savings of GBP 1.4 million (≈ EUR 1.64 million) a year, per vessel.

The solution was defined during Expleo’s feasibility study into clean power propulsion systems, funded through the UK Department for Transport’s (DfT) Clean Marine Demonstration Competition (CMDC) and is detailed in the new white paper ‘Clean Green Marine – a breakthrough for global shipping.’

To meet the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) timeline for carbon emission reduction, many of the world’s 100 000 vessels will need to convert to low-carbon fuel by 2035 – making the development of a viable retrofit and new build system a high priority.

Expleo modeled its ‘system-of-systems’ solution on the multi-tasking Bibby Wavemaster 1, a vessel used to service offshore wind farms.

Our solution uses solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC), technology that, although highly efficient and well suited to use in marine environments, releases a high concentration of CO2. To achieve the desired reduction in GHG, we partnered SOFC with a novel carbon capture and storage system, enabling a vessel to use its captured CO2 and green hydrogen to synthesize e-methanol, said Jonathan Taylor, VP of Marine at Expleo.

The green hydrogen in the solution can be produced at offshore wind farms, from surplus electrical energy or supplied in-port – ensuring the closed-loop remains as sustainable as possible, Jonathan Taylor added.

According to Taylor, the financial, logistical, and environmental benefits of this solution are “game-changing”.

This circular solution allows the marine industry to make its own fuel and removes the need for costly processing and transportation. In addition, we’ve been able to demonstrate that this solution would achieve a 92 percent reduction in GHG emissions in the model vessel – delivering the much-needed breakthrough on emissions and supporting the creation of green shipping corridors, as outlined in the Clydebank Declaration, Jonathan Taylor explained.

Expleo’s innovation also delivers significant operational savings, with the study showing OPEX reductions of GBP 1.4 million (≈ EUR 1.64) a year, per vessel, and a projected payback period of around four years on a retrofit, for the vessel used in the model.

This could revolutionize a sizeable portion of the global fleet, helping them to retrofit in line with targets for Net Zero. And, as a replacement for diesel generators, it can easily be incorporated into new build designs offering up to 100 percent reduction in GHG emissions, said Jeff Hoyle, EVP Aero Space and Defence at Expleo.

Schematic of the methanol closed-loop (graphic courtesy Expleo).

The solution, which is developed for sharing with the open market, supports the DfT’s goal to commercialize and accelerate the decarbonization of the maritime sector.

Expleo is now working with several partners to explore the scalability of this novel system.

This has the potential to help the world’s shipowners achieve million-pound savings, herald the introduction of circular fuel ecosystems, and deliver a reduction of 92 percent in GHG emissions. It is a ‘system-of-systems’ and offers the world’s shipowners a truly scalable solution, ended Jonathan Taylor.


About Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition

The Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (CMDC) launched in March 2021 and funded by the Department for Transport and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK. As part of the CMDC, the Department allocated more than GBP 23 million (≈ EUR 27 million) to 55 projects supported by 208 organizations from across the UK.

The CMDC was announced as part of the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan to position the UK at the forefront of clean maritime technologies and reduce emissions from the sector.

The CMDC is supporting the research, design, and development of zero-emission vessel and infrastructure solutions to enable clean technologies to commercialize and accelerate the decarbonization of the maritime sector. The program is funding projects from across the entire UK, including in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as from the South West to the North East of England.

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