Carnival Corp. to Test Fuel Cell-Powered Cruise Ships

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Carnival Corporation is taking another step to reduce cruise ship emissions with a pilot program designed to test a fuel cell system that could power large passenger vessels. While the project is slated for the company’s German cruise brand, AIDA Cruises, it could have implications for the wider industry if successful. 

Carnival Corp. said that its AIDA Cruises brand could begin piloting the new technology as early as 2021, which the company said would make it the cruise industry’s first brand to trial fuel cells on a large cruise ship. 

The research project, named "Pa-X-ell2," is designed to develop fuel cells that are powered by hydrogen derived from methanol. Designed by Freudenberg Sealing Technologies, the fuel cells are expected to have a longer lifecycle than those currently being developed for automobiles, with early trials on land showing a lifespan of over 35,000 operating hours. Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure is funding the project. 

Carnival Corp. said that the hybrid energy system could have lower emission levels than liquefied natural gas (LNG), which produces fewer emissions than other marine fossil fuels. AIDA Cruises launched the first cruise ship capable of being powered in port and at sea by LNG last December, and Carnival Corp. has a further 10 LNG-powered ships on order, including Costa Cruises’ Costa Smeralda

Carnival Corp. also said that the fuel cells could have benefits beyond lower emissions, such as operating with lower noise and vibration. Additionally, the company said that in the future there is the potential for the methanol required for the system to be produced from renewable energy sources. 

In other sustainable travel news, last month AIDA also signed an agreement to install a new lithium-ion battery power system on the AIDAperla in 2020, which Carnival Corp. said will be the largest battery storage system ever installed on a passenger ship. The system will be generating a total output of 10 megawatt-hours to help power the ship’s propulsion and operations for periods of time. 

Carnival Corp. is also using Advanced Air Quality Systems, often referred to as exhaust gas cleaning systems, or "scrubbers." As of this past July, Advanced Air Quality Systems have been installed on 77 of the more than 100 ships in the Carnival Corp. fleet. The systems remove almost all of sulfur oxide emissions, the company said, as well as 75 percent of all particulate matter and reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.

AIDA Cruises' newest ship, AIDAnova, was recently named the first-ever cruise ship to be awarded the Blue Angel certification by Germany's Federal Ministry for the Environment for its environmentally friendly ship design. Since 2000, every ship built for AIDA Cruises has "cold ironing" or shore power capabilities, which allow for connecting directly into the land-based electrical grid while in port where the infrastructure is available, Carnival Corp. said. With "cold ironing," the air emissions are managed and regulated under the emission control requirements at the power plant supplying the port. By the end of 2020, at least 12 of AIDA's 14 ships will be able to use shore power wherever it is available. Since 2017, AIDAsol has been using the shore power plant in Hamburg-Altona, Germany, for its regular operations.

In addition, AIDA is also exploring the use of CO2-free production of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from renewable sources through its "Power to Gas" project or the use of fuel cells in cruise shipping. By the end of 2023, 94 percent of all AIDA guests will travel on ships that can be fully powered by low-emission LNG or shore power where possible.

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