Fuel cell and methanol reforming system for clean energy on board

The LIFE OCEAN project is the first project which aims to use a carbon-neutral fuel for electric energy production on a Sanlorenzo superyacht

Transition towards carbon-neutral mobility in the maritime sector

The maritime sector represents about 13.5% the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at EU level (Source: EEA, 2021). In order to foster decarbonization of fuels in the maritime sector, the IMO fixed a target of 80% cut of GHG emissions until 2050 and cut of 100% until 2100. The path towards decarbonization of fuels in the maritime sector will also lead to the reduction and/or abatement of pollutants like CO, NOX, SOX, PM, BC, HC that are emitted by fossil fuels combustion. The installation of a methanol reformer coupled to a HTPEM fuel cell could represent an interesting solution as auxiliary power unit of yachts and superyachts, to cover the hotel load but also to sustain slow speed cruising and maneuvering operations in ports.

The concept

Why using green methanol?

Instead of methanol the project will foster the adoption of green methanol (methanol produced by renewable sources, i.e. from agricultural and forestry residues, biogas, organic fraction of municipal solid wastes, synthesis of H2 produced from electrolytic processes and CO2 coming from carbon capture technologies).


Furthermore, methanol is easy to store and handle, it is biodegradable and does not contain sulphur. It is liquid at environmental temperature and pressure, it presents a good energy density (around 22 MJ/kg) and does not need cryogenic tanks for its storage like LNG. 

Methanol + Water

1. Step

First, the sustainable produced methanol needs to be mixed with water to enable the electrochemical reaction in the reformer. To safe space, weight and hence energy on the vessel it is our goal to find a solution to reuse the water produced in the fuel cell instead of installing a water tank. Resulting in an onboard water cycle and savings of this valuable resource.


2. Step

The Methanol-Water-Mix is heated in the reformer. In the process called steam reforming, hydrogen is released. 


3. Step

The hydrogen can now be used in many ways. E.g., as an admixture to natural gas in steam turbines or as here in a HTPEM fuel cell.

Fuel Cell

4. Step

In the HTPEM fuel cell the hydrogen reacts highly efficient, silent and with little waste heat with air to purest water.


5. Step

This produces electrical energy, which is used in this project to supply electricity to a superyacht.


What are the advantages of using the mFC system?


1 MWh/y

Energy savings

Reduction in primary energy use 

0.1 t/y

SOx, NOx, PM, HC, CO

Reduction in use of carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic substances

1 t CO2eq/y

GHG emissions

Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions 

for the typical use profile of only one yacht per year

"With LIFE OCEAN we are setting an important milestone in decarbonizing marine industry, paving the way for this future technology to spread to other types of vessels."
Markus Wagner, Siemens Energy, Project Manager of LIFE OCEAN

Coming up next

Project start
Participation at the boot Düsseldorf fair
Integration of the mFC system on board
Project end