Anglo-Dutch supermajor Shell is looking to trial the use of hydrogen fuel cells for ships, in collaboration with Singapore’s Sembcorp Marine (Sembmarine) and Penguin International.


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Shell claims the trial will be the first of its kind for the company and for Singapore and believes it could help pave the way for cleaner, hydrogen powered shipping.

The proposed trial will see the development and installation of an auxiliary power unit Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell on an existing roll on/roll-off (RoRo) vessel that transports goods between the mainland and Shell’s Pulau Bukom manufacturing site.

The companies will first carry out a feasibility study, with the intention of installing the fuel cell next year and operating the trial for a period of 12 months.

Shell will be the charterer of the trial vessel and the hydrogen fuel provider, with Sembmarine and LMG to design the fuel cell and retrofit the vessel, while Penguin owns the RoRo vessel to be used in the trial.

General manager of Shell Shipping and Maritime, Asia Pacific & Middle East, Nick Potter, said the trial would be an important step in demonstrating the applicability of hydrogen and fuel cells on ships.

“We see fuel cells and hydrogen as a promising pathway for decarbonising shipping and working with partners in this way will develop our understanding of this critical technology,” he said.

“This trial is a testament to the thriving sector ecosystem in Singapore that makes this possible. It is also part of our ambition to help accelerate progress towards net-zero emissions in the shipping sector, an important pillar of the Singapore economy.”

Sembmarine chief executive Wong Weng Sun added the project opened “exciting possibilities” for decarbonisation in the marine and energy industries.

“Hydrogen fuel cells have the potential to revolutionise shipping and transportation, enabling the industry to become greener with the ambition to achieve the 2050 target set by the International Maritime Organization to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping by at least 50%,” he added.

The initiative was also welcomed by Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority (MPA), with MPA chief executive Quah Ley Hoon stating: “We appreciate the confidence the companies have placed on Singapore in trialing the applicability of this new technology within the Port of Singapore.

“This project, together with the other joint industry projects, complements efforts in Singapore to come up with commercially viable solutions to decarbonise the industry.”

Shell Singapore launched a 10-year plan in November 2020, aimed at cutting its carbon dioxide emissions by about a third within a decade, while parent company Shell is targeting to be a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050.