Viking On Course to Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Viking Orion

Viking is moving firmly in the direction of hydrogen fuel cells, according to Torstein Hagen, founder and chairman.

Operating 10-ocean going cruise ships now and 10 more slated for deliveries by 2030, he said that the thirteenth ship will be equipped with a 6 MW fuel cell installation, providing a third of the ship’s power needs.

“We are firmly on this path and also have plans for how we can convert to 100 percent hydrogen fuel cell power,” he said. “We have designed out ships so that with a relatively short drydock they can be converted to 100 percent hydrogen.

“We are working with Fincantieri on this and estimate a capital cost addition of about $40 million per ship, which translates to only a few dollars per passenger cruise day.”

Hagen said that hydrogen will initially be more expensive but is projected to be a very competitive fuel by 2035.

More Efficient

Viking has 10 ocean-going cruise ships today, and the first ship, which was delivered in 2015, was 40 percent more fuel efficient compared to ships of similar sizes built around 2000, Hagen said, adding that the cruise line’s fuel cost is less than 5 percent of its gross revenues.

“The ships are more efficient because of their design, powerplants, heat recovery, LED lighting, the whole nine yards.”

All the ships have identical powerplants with two inline nine-cylinder and two V-12 MAN engines, except the Viking Neptune which also has a pilot fuel cell installation onboard.

“When you build cruise ships, they are expected to last for 40 years, so you better get it right,” he continued. “When we started building, we did not have a past to defend so we built our ships right, for fuel oil, either heavy fuel or marine gas oil, and put in scrubbers.

“Our scrubbers are closed loop, compared to the ships that use open loop and release the sulfur into the ocean where it kills.”

Pet Peeves

Hagen said that two of his pet peeves are the confusion between pollution and global warming and the open- vs. closed scrubber scenario. The third is LNG.

Viking has chosen not to go the LNG route, in fact, Hagen is strongly opposed to it. He said LNG is another word for methane, which he said is 80 times worse than CO2 in terms of global warming.

“One thing is to burn it in a boiler, another thing is to burn it in a combustion engine, because there is a methane slip of around 3 percent. When you adjust for that, LNG becomes worse in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Many say it is an interim solution, but it is not interim if it makes the situation worse.

“I would rather be scientifically correct than politically correct,” Hagen noted.

Making the Point

“One point I would like to make,” he continued, “is what we are doing for global warming and local pollution. The objectives are often in conflict, which is reflected in the IMO 2020.

“For example, if you live in Odda (a small town on a fjord in Norway) and want to get rid of the sulfur, that is good for local pollution, but not good for global warming. So, we have to be clearer on which problem we want to solve and not throw them all together in the same bucket under the sustainability label.

“For a company to be sustainable, it must first of all be profitable. But we also need to pay attention to current trends and global warming, but they have gotten it all wrong on global warming.

“Meanwhile, we have dealt with pollution quite well, because, as I said, we have scrubbers on all our engines and all our ships except one has shore power.”

Excerpt from the Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine Fall 2023

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