SENER and Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW), a ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems company, recently announced the signature of an agreement for the industrial production of an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system based on a methanol reformer.
Methanol reformers are used to produce hydrogen by putting water and methanol through a complex technical process. Hydrogen is the fuel used in HDW’s non-nuclear submarine AIP system.
An initial R+D collaboration agreement was signed between the two companies in 2006 and, since then, both SENER and HDW have been working together in the development of different subsystems of the AIP. As of today, all technological risks have been overcome successfully during the development phase. A first complete industrialised system is expected to be produced by the end of next year, opening the ways to series production.
For its part, SENER is responsible for the development of the CO2 subsystem, among others, which dissolves gases into seawater without any influence on the submarine’s signature in terms of bubbles and noise.
On the other hand, based on the heritage of previous fuel cells systems and other critical subsystems, HDW’s latest methanol reformer has proven efficiency greater than 90%. HDW has in recent years built a reputation for supplying the most efficient and effective AIP driven non-nuclear submarines in the world.
Conventional submarines have in recent years become increasingly important in modern low-intensity conflict scenarios, mainly in coastal waters. These ultra silent conventional boats offer significant advantages when compared with larger nuclear ones. The use of an effective weight to energy air-independent propulsion (AIP) system provides major tactical advantages as it removes the need for snorkel operation to recharge batteries and allows long endurance submerged missions, in both littoral and deep sea waters.
SENER is a European technological company working on the edge of innovative products in multidisciplinary fields (Aeronautics and Vehicles, Civil and Architecture, Power and Process and Marine). The effort in this collaboration for the AIP based on Methanol Reformer was performed internally by a close collaboration of Aeronautics and Vehicles, Power and Process, and Marine departments.
HDW, one of the main submarine builders worldwide, leads the market in the field of conventional submarines equipped with AIP systems, in which HDW started its developments more than 20 years ago, based on fuel cell systems with metal hydride storage cylinders for the hydrogen. Since then, parallel developments have been accomplished aiming for a methanol reformer system for onboard hydrogen production.