MSC Announces New Eco-Friendly Power Plans for New Ships

MSC Cruises' first World Class ship, the MSC Europa, will incorporate a new fuel cell technology. (Photo by MSC Cruises)

MSC Cruises has announced new sustainable power plans for its newest cruise ship classes, the Meraviglia Plus class and the World Class. The cruise line made the announcement at a pair of events at French shipyard Chantiers de l’Antique, in which MSC officially took delivery of its first Meraviglia Plus vessel, the MSC Grandiosa, and cut steel for its first World Class ship, the MSC Europa. MSC Group Chairman Gianluigi Aponte attended the MSC Grandiosa delivery ceremony and MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago attended the steel-cutting for the MSC Europa

In addition to marking the first World Class ship for the cruise line, MSC announced that the MSC Europa will incorporate a demonstrator for a new fuel cell technology. Called PACBOAT, the R&D project will produce electricity and heat for the ship using liquefied natural gas (LNG). 

PACBOAT will use solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology, which is different from the hydrogen-powered fuel cells often used in the automotive industry. SOFC technology operates at very high temperatures, approximately 1,380 degrees Fahrenheit, and it is more efficient for high-power marine applications than hydrogen-based fuel cells, MSC said. The SOFC technology offers electrical efficiency of up to 60 percent, and, as the heat produced can be self-consumed onboard, its total efficiency – heat and electricity – can be much higher, resulting in a direct reduction of energy consumption and therefore greenhouse gas emissions, the cruise line said. 

All told, the LNG-powered SOFC technology would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 30 percent as compared with a conventional LNG engine, with no nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide or fine particle emissions, MSC said. In addition, the technology is compatible with many fuels, including LNG, methane, methanol, ammonia and hydrogen, thus making it compatible with their future low-carbon versions. 

The MSC Grandiosa also incorporates a number of environmentally friendly features, MSC said. In addition to a hybrid “closed-loop” exhaust gas cleaning system (EGCS) which reduces ship sulphur emissions by 97 percent, MSC Grandiosa will also be the first MSC Cruises ship to incorporate a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system, which helps reduce nitrogen oxide by 80 percent. All other MSC Cruises ships currently under construction will have the SCR technology, including MSC Grandiosa’s sister ship, MSC Virtuosa, due to come into service in October 2020, as well as MSC Seashore, currently under construction at a different shipyard. This active emissions control technology conducts nitrogen oxide from the engine operations through a catalyst – a high-density device made from noble metals – and converts them into harmless nitrogen and water.

MSC Cruises is investing approximately $5.5 billion in the construction of five LNG-powered ships. Compared to standard marine diesel, LNG reduces sulphur oxide emissions by more than 99 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 85 percent, MSC said. The fuel also largely eliminates particulate matter in the ship’s exhaust and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by as much as an additional 20 percent. The LNG-powered MSC Europa will come into service in May 2022 and is the first of four World Class ships to be constructed at the French yard, with further deliveries scheduled for 2024, 2025 and 2027. In addition, one Meraviglia Plus ship will also be powered by LNG when the ship comes into service in 2023.

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