Research into the use of methanol as a ship’s fuel is already underway and more initiatives are needed, says the country’s Minister of Shipping and Waterways.

According to The Hindu, Nitin Gadkari made the comments during a ceremony at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras (IIT-M) to mark the laying of a foundation stone for a national technology centre which will focus on the modernisation of India’s ports and inland waterways.

The Minister noted that the National Institution for Transforming India (Niti Aayog), a government policy think-tank established by the Narendra Modi administration, has already undertaken research into methanol, and he suggested that other institutions, such as IIT-M, could further this work and also look how India could manufacture its own methanol for industrial use.

Looking at the developing role of ports in India, Gadkari noted that the shipping industry had registered increasing profits since the BJP government came to power in 2014 and, he said: ‘This year, we are expecting profits up to ₹7000 crore.’



 09 Feb 2018

Lower investment and space requirements than LNG make methanol attractive, but the cost of bio-methanol is a barrier, according to a new Dutch study into the environmentally friendly fuel.

Over the past year the Maritime Knowledge Center, TNO and TU Delft (with support from the Dutch ministry of economic affairs), have investigated the possibilities of using methanol to cut emissions in shipping. Methanol has comparable environmental performance to LNG, but requires less space and up-front investment.

“It is a clean fossil fuel that is also available worldwide in large quantities,” said project leader Project leader Pieter 't Hart of maritime consultancy Koers & Vaart. "Moreover, the transition from grey to green (renewable) methanol is relatively simple and requires hardly any additional investment for ship owners. However, the cost price of green methanol is still too high.”

Green methanol is also subject to a subsidy system described as ‘vulnerable’ by the report. These subsides mean that green methanol is currently cheaper than marine gas oil, but they are not secure in the long term and offer little security for ship owners.

“If that financial bump can be taken, we’ll make a big leap forward towards zero-emission ships,” said Hart.

The report – which looks at methanol as marine fuel experiences to date – include Waterfront Shipping’s methanol carriers and the ro-pax Stena Germanica - can be downloaded here.

Army exploring uses for fuel cell technology beyond vehicles PDF Print E-mail
February 07, 2018 |
Ashley Tressel

A program using hydrogen fuel cells to reduce a vehicle's detectability has revealed other potential uses for the technology, which the service is exploring. Powering an assault vehicle or a command post are among the possibilities, the project lead with the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center told Inside the Army.

A demonstration last month in Hawaii proved the system's stealth in a simulated reconnaissance mission pitting the 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, in humvees against the "enemy" in the General Motors ZH2, a modified Chevrolet Colorado fitted with a fuel cell and electric drive. Lying in wait in the ZH2 was project lead Brian Butrico, who was surprised at how close the cavalry came before they noticed his vehicle hiding in the jungle.

"They had no idea until they literally drove right past us," Butrico said of one drill. "Had we been a real enemy opposition force and had a weapons system, we would have been able to destroy the entire column of humvees very easily before they even saw us."

The ZH2 does not produce any smoke, noise, odor or thermal signature, allowing its occupants to mask their presence in the field.

"Instead of [the enemy] being able to hear us from a kilometer away, they can now only hear us from 50 or 100 meters away, so that allows us a lot of flexibility in where we set up command posts, or also freedom of movement, and allows us greater mobility and areas of approach -- more areas we can operate in without being detected," he said.

Butrico said the Army is "just scratching the surface" of possibilities with this technology and officials are excited by future applications. Kari Drotleff, who is replacing Butrico as project lead, said the service aims to determine the best possible use of the technology.

"We can put this into anything, but is it the right application?" she said.

The 25th ID used the fuel cell to quietly power its tactical operation center, eliminating noisy generators. An extensive modeling simulation by the Army will see how this could work in a larger theater, said Butrico. The service is also toying with the idea of using the technology as an auxiliary power unit on a major combat platform or even equipping soldiers with it as a wearable system to lighten their load.

The Army has already begun work to determine how to produce, store and distribute hydrogen in the field. 

Ballard Announces New Improvements in Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology for Drones PDF Print E-mail

On December 22nd Ballard Power Systems (NASDAQ: BLDP; TSX: BLDP) announced that the company has developed a next generation high performance fuel cell propulsion system to power unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones.

We’ve been particularly interested in any new developments in hydrogen fuel cell technology given the potential for higher flying time as an alternative to the restrictive current flying time of 25 minutes or less found on most commercially available multi-copters. This next generation fuel cell propulsion system is set to deliver a number of important advances, namely, increased power density, resulting from a new membrane electrode assembly (MEA) design. Additionally, reduced costs that result from a combination of new MEA and one-step fuel cell stack sealing process will also provide major benefits, along with an extended lifetime. The increase in rated power, without any appreciable increase in size or weight, is a particularly significant development for UAV applications.

Given the perceived improvements over the technology we first reported back in June 2017, we reached out to Phil Robinson Vice President of Unmanned Systems at Protonex, a Ballard subsidiary, to hear from him directly on the details and potential impact of this announcement.


Juan: Do you consider the new technology a breakthrough?

Phil: While the technology described in our announcement is important, I’m not sure it qualifies as a “breakthrough”, but is rather part of our continuous improvement. The MEA is where the “magic” happens in a PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) fuel cell. At Protonex we have traditionally used MEAs from the automotive fuel cell industry, given their very high reliability and good performance. By substituting a Ballard MEA, we were able to increase performance while maintaining reliability and enhancing “operating range”.


Juan: Operating range seems to be the challenge for fuel cells, correct?

Phil: “Operating Range” is very important for fuel cell power systems, and it is often overlooked. For a fuel cell to operate well, the membrane needs to remain moist (but not too wet) and warm (but not too hot). Different fuel cell design approaches result in vastly different operating environment ranges – air cooled stacks like those offered by others in this space are a little like cold-blooded animals: as long as the environment is warm and moist, they do very well. When it gets hot outside, or cold, or dry, they don’t fare so well.


Juan: Does this new technology offer an advantage over the air-cooled systems offered by Intelligent Energy and MMC?

Phil: For some applications, yes. Protonex legacy was mainly with the defense world, and the systems were used in hot dry deserts as well as frigid high-altitude locations. Our systems use a liquid cooling system with circulating coolant and a “heat exchanger” (more commonly known as a radiator). This adds some weight and cost to the system, but gives it a much wider “operating range” than most air-cooled systems.


Juan: Can you be more specific regarding gains in power output and operating range?

Phil: While we already had the widest operating range in the UAV fuel cell industry, the Ballard MEA has widened it even more: it allow us to operate in dryer conditions, and hotter conditions, while generating about 10% more power, so our 600 watt fuel cell system now outputs about 660 watts average.


Juan: Does liquid cooling result in an increase in weight?

Phil: Of course, everyone would want this wider operating range if it were free – but it has a slight weight cost. That liquid cooling system increases the weight enough that, while our systems are a no-brainer for fixed-wing applications, for multi-rotor copters you need a pretty big platform (typically 6-8 rotors with pretty large props) before a liquid cooled system makes sense.


Juan: In the world of commercial applications, more time in the air and longer flights are not really a must-have unless the FAA allows and regulates flights beyond visual line of sight. Do you agree?

Phil: Absolutely. Commercial operators today are restricted not by technology but by the regulations that prevent longer flights and BVLOS. The demand for power technologies that would allow longer flights and faster return on investment on aerial platforms will grow dramatically over the next few years as BVLOS missions become commonplace and Ballard is positioning itself to be a leader in the space.

As with most issues related to the advancement of Unmanned Aerial Systems, BVLOS keeps popping up as a main obstacle to the deployment of better applications. It is an issue that has captured the FAA’s attention at the highest levels and that the UAS Integration Pilot Program announced by the federal government last month specifically addresses.

At the same time that we understand the urge of the industry for flights BVLOS, the safe integration of manned and unmanned aircraft in controlled airspace must also be a priority of every stakeholder. Protonex and the other manufacturers agree with the “Safety-First” approach and support the FAA’s efforts to drive forward quickly yet prudently.

Power technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells are contributing to keep our unmanned aircraft longer in the air but ultimately it would be technologies such as detect-and-avoid, proximity sensors and many others that would allow the FAA to open the flood gates of unrestricted UAV operations in controlled airspace.

Plans for a hydrogen-powered steel plant PDF Print E-mail

By Jemima Owen-Jones2 February 2018

 SSAB, the highly-specialised global steel company based in Sweden, has proposed plans to transition the business to fossil-free steel production using hydrogen (H2).

The plan involves a drastic cut in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions with the facility being totally fossil-free by 2045.

A study is currently under way to convert the blast furnace in Oxelösund into an electric arc furnace. This is the first step in adapting the process for the production of fossil-free steel. Conversion will take place in around 2025 and would mean that SSAB can cut its COemissions in Sweden by around 25%.

SSAB today announced that they are also planning to convert the blast furnaces in Raahe and Luleå between 2030-2040 in order to eliminate most of the remaining COemissions and reach the target to be fossil-free by 2045.

Martin Lindqvist, President and CEO of SSAB, said, “The transition to fossil-free steel production has already started, and we’re now detailing what the road ahead will be like. We believe that this is the right way to go and that it will create many exciting business opportunities for us as a company. SSAB wants to be part of the solution to climate change.”

The transition in SSAB’s business is a consequence of SSAB’s, LKAB’s and Vattenfall’s initiative to find a solution for fossil-free steel production, HYBRIT.

At present the coal and coke used to reduce iron ore into iron are shipped to Sweden from places including Australia. This is a process that generates large volumes of CO2. The idea behind HYBRIT is to use H2, which has been produced with electricity from fossil-free sources and emits only clean water.

Sweden and Finland have a unique opportunity to drive an initiative for fossil-free steel, with good access to climate-smart and fossil-free electrical power, Europe’s highest-quality iron ore and a specialised, innovative steel industry.

To complete this project, however, significant national contributions are still required from the state, research institutions, and universities.

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