Fuel Cell Propulsion Fitted into New Portuguese Subs
The Siemens Industrial Solutions and Services Group (I&S) is fitting two new Type-209MOD submarines for Portugal’s navy with the latest fuel cell propulsion equipment, which allows the non-nuclear attack submarines to have a quieter profile and run while submerged for far longer periods. The order is worth EUR 58 million, and the contract also includes a EUR 23 million option for the same equipment to be built into a third submarine. Handover of the submarines to the Portuguese navy is scheduled to begin in 2009 or 2010.
After six years of debate, evaluation and negotiation, the Portuguese Navy (PN) signed a construction contract with the German Submarine Consortium (GSC) for two Type-209 submarines on April 21, 2004 with an option for a third. The contract is worth $911 million to GSC and features $1.42 billion in offsets for Portuguese industry. The submarines are tailored for the Portuguese Navy and include air independent propulsion and other features of the later Type-214 design.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) criticized the contract following its signing, saying it believes Portugal has no need for a submarine force. Portuguese officials, however, maintain that Portugal, although part of NATO, still has its own goals to achieve and are moving forward with the program.
The submarines will be built at ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems shipyards in Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft GmbH (HDW) and at Nordseewerken in Emden. Siemens’ scope of supply includes provision of a Permasyn permanent-magnet electric synchronous motors for supplying direct current, PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) fuel cells equipped with oxygen and hydrogen storage for supplying power, switchgear, and the Nautos automation system. An air-independent propulsion (AIP) system, used for silent slow cruising, comes from HDW, while Siemens is providing the fuel cell modules as well as the control and monitoring devices. Their “Nautos” integrated automation system controls, monitors and coordinates all the engineering systems from the engineering control console. The scope of supply also includes submarine-specific switchgear, electronic documentation, a pier monitoring system and a shore test facility.
The fuel cell, which produces electricity from hydrogen and oxygen, enables the new class of submarine to cruise submerged for weeks at a time. Conventional diesel-electric submarines have exhausted their batteries after about two days’ submerged cruising. In addition, the fuel cell generates no noise and no exhaust heat. It is thus virtually impossible to fix the submarine’s position.
Siemens has received orders for this technology from Germany, Italy, Greece and Korea, and has now been contracted to equip a total of 15 (16 counting the option) conventional submarines with this innovative technology.
- GlobalSecurity.org: Type 209 Submarine
- Fuel Cell Today: Portuguese navy orders two submarines with Siemens fuel cell technology
- HDW Release: Fuel Cell Submarine U33 Launched at HDW
- Sea Power Magazine, June 2004: Sea Power International Update
- DID – U.S. Navy Exploring New Approaches, Procurement Priorities for ASW. The proliferation of submarines like these is why.