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Validation of a Renewable Methanol-based Auxiliary Power System for Commercial Vessels



Validation of a Renewable Methanol-based Auxiliary Power System for Commercial Vessels

Background & policy context: 

There are many types of fuel cell on the market and the types mostly considered for marine applications are PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane), PAFC (Phosphoric Acid Fuel Cell), MCFC (Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell) and SOFC (Solid Oxide Fuel Cell ). According to online chemical engineering information, the electric efficiencies of PEM and PAFC are lower than that of SOFC and MCFC. SOFC and MCFC are both high-temperature fuel cells having approximately the same range of electric efficiency.

SOFC seems to be very promising and this project utilised a certain type of SOFC technology.

Currently in Europe there are large projects, including FellowShip, aiming at integrating a fuel-cell unit with a marine vessel. Phase one of the FellowShip project has been completed successfully.

METHAPU servedas a good way to build upon what phase one of FellowShip accomplished.

The challenge here was that while international regulations permit the carriage of methanol as a cargo, there are currently no international regulations allowing the use of methanol for fuel on-board ships. METHAPU will facilitate the introduction of international regulations on methanol as a marine fuel. Future research activities on larger fuel cells and a sustainable society based on renewable fuels need a good knowledge base, and METHAPU is structured to provide the necessary springboard for such activities.


The objectives of the project are:

  1. the introduction of renewable fuels onboard ship in support of the wider use of sustainable fuels in the marine transportation sector through research activities;
  2. to validate marine-compatible methanol running on marinised solid oxide fuel-cell technology;
  3. to innovate the necessary technical justifications for the use of methanol onboard cargo vessels involved in international trade in order to support the introduction of necessary regulations to allowing the use of methanol as a marine fuel;
  4. to facilitate future research activities on larger marine-compatible SOFC units and a methanol-based economy;
  5. to assess short-term and long-term environmental impacts of the application.

Research and innovation activities focus on solving the technical and regulatory obstacles related to methanol fuel bunkering, distribution and storage systems.

The research activity concerns a 250 kW SOFC unit and this activity is reinforced by actually building a properly marinised and methanol-using 20 kW SOFC unit.

The marinisation study of the 250 kW unit is done with an approach similar to the Delphi-method. The consortium is well positioned to provide the necessary expertise. This study is applied to the building of the marine compatible 20 kW unit. The 20 kW methanol-using unit is onboard a vessel sailing the oceans and run for a certain period and the necessary data collected. The collected data will provide inputs for reviewing the marinisation study concerning the 250 kW unit.

The technical and regulatory obstacles related to methanol bunkering, distribution and storage are tackled with a Delphi-like approach as well. The outcomes serve as inputs to the preparation of new regulations concerning the use of methanol as an onboard fuel.

Institution Type:
Institution Name: 
European Commission
Type of funding:
Key Results: 

The following achievements were reached and deliverables prepared during the project:

  • Reassessed project plan was prepared immediately in the beginning of the project;
  • Marine Project Guide for SOFC installations;
  • Stakeholder analysis and requirements;
  • Definition of approval procedure;
  • Study on state-of-the-art of LCA;
  • Study on category rules for the product group (marine SOFC);
  • Life cycle assessment for marine SOFC installation;
  • Test bench tested methanol reformer;
  • A 20kW prototype SOFC unit modified for marine conditions;
  • Factory acceptance test approved for the SOFC unit;
  • Factory acceptance test approved for the fuel cell unit and fuel cell room;
  • Factory acceptance test approved for the methanol tank container;
  • SOFC system installed onboard the ship Undine;
  • Harbor and Sea Acceptance test for SOFC installation, including concluded assessment of onboard SOFC system;
  • User manuals for SOFC system;
  • Ship procedures concerning SOFC system;
  • Test plan for field testing period;
  • Field testing period of five months including evaluation of results;
  • Introduction and training package for main users and ship crew;
  • General review of design for marine SOFC installation.


The results of this project will be available to future FP7 projects focusing on sustainable marine transportation in which the use of sustainable fuels, such as methanol, and larger fuel cell systems would be the key points.


Wärtsilä Corporation 

Università degli Studi di Genova - Dipartimento di Ingegneria Chimica e di Processo "D.G. Bonino" (DICHEP)

Det Norske Veritas

Wallenius Marine AB

United Kingdom
Lloyd's Register

Contact Name: 
Mr Vinh Tho Phan
Contact Email: 
Wärtsilä Corporation
John Stenbergin ranta 2
Contact country:
(+358) 40 567 20 87
Fax Number: 
(+358) 10 709 54 40
Link to CORDIS information: