South Korean shipbuilder HD Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering, a subsidiary of HD Hyundai, announced that it has signed a 45 million euro ($47 million) investment deal with an Estonia-based fuel cell manufacturer, Elcogen AS.
The signing ceremony was held in Seoul on Wednesday, with top executives, including HD Hyundai’s President Chung Ki-sun and Elcogen CEO Enn Ounpuu and Estonian President Alar Karis in attendance.
The central objective of this investment is to upgrade HD Korea Shipbuilding's solid oxide fuel cell, or SOFC, capabilities. Unlike traditional fuel cells which primarily use hydrogen, SOFCs have the unique ability to generate electricity from a variety of fuels, such as natural gas, ammonia, biofuels and even methanol.
Their versatility in fuel acceptance, coupled with a high energy conversion rate and capability to utilize waste heat -- especially when they operate at elevated temperatures between 600 to 1,000 degrees Celsius -- makes them ideal for both powering ships and land-based power generation facilities.
Once the system is completed, the company plans to develop power generation and propulsion systems for onshore power generation and ships, as well as produce green hydrogen using water electrolysis technology.
Discussions about the possibility of setting up a fuel cell production partnership in Korea with Elcogen are also underway, according to HD Hyundai.
Elcogen is one of the key leaders in SOFC technology. Founded in 2001 in Estonia, the firm has carved a niche in producing essential SOFC components. The company is particularly recognized for advanced temperature management that produces greater energy output from the same amount of fuel, optimizing performance and cost-effectiveness.
Last year, HD Korea Shipbuilding invested $30 million in TerraPower, a US firm specializing in small modular reactors, or SMRs. SMRs are a new wave of compact and efficient nuclear power solutions, aligning with the company's broader mission of advancing sustainable maritime energy systems.
The Korean company has also been proactive in nurturing in-house talent, with the formation of an SMR research team solely dedicated to the development of nuclear-powered marine vessels.