In a 40 to 50 years time frame the most logical fuel for ships might be ammonia… it makes sense and it would help to reach faster the today incredible goal of reaching zero emissions in the shipping industry.
But would it make sense economically? and will it be possible to produce the immense amounts needed in order to match today’s use of residuals?
An important task for the next two or three generations.
Ammonia Could Be Shipping’s Next-Gen Fuel of the Future
in Hellenic Shipping News 28/09/2020
Shipping will need to settle on the desired combination of fuels and technologies needed, in order to achieve the goals of decarbonization needed. As such, ammonia is gaining traction a true next-gen fuel in this respect. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Gibson said that “the move to zero emissions transport will be a very long and winding one, in which by all accounts the transport sector and in particular shipping, will be one of the last to fully make the transition. The IEA recently investigated the general move to zero emissions within the global economy. They highlight that reducing CO2 emissions in the transport sector will be a formidable task, despite, or maybe because of the growing number of regulations requiring shipping to reduce its Green House Gas (GHG) and air pollutant emissions. This poses a real challenge for the shipping industry. Shipping by its very nature mostly involves large vessels traveling long distances which have trading lives of 20-35 years, inhibiting the uptake of new low-carbon technologies. Reducing emissions from large transoceanic ships will be particularly onerous, requiring significant investment and co-ordinated efforts among fuel suppliers, ports, shipbuilders owners and charterers”.
According to Gibson, “ammonia is attracting interest as a potential carbon-free fuel for shipping due to its high liquefaction temperature and energy density compared to hydrogen. There is also a well established infrastructure system for handling ammonia, although currently no bunkering facilities. Plus it is easier to store and transport than hydrogen. In addition, ammonia is a well traded chemical and there is already significant industry expertise when it comes to handling it on-board as a cargo as opposed to hydrogen. The main barrier to it being used as a fuel for shipping is that it is acutely toxic. On a positive note, ammonia can be used in a fuel cell as well as a conventional engine. But further technological advances are needed for ammonia fuel cells to see lower costs and become a viable alternative technology. The current efficiency of the ammonia conversion process is currently around 50%, which would need to be improved to help to reduce production costs. Also,the competitiveness of hydrogenbased fuels (like ammonia) will also depend on adoption of policy by either penalising the use of fossil fuels, such as CO2 pricing, or incentivising the use of clean fuels, such as clean fuel standards that are currently being considered at the IMO”.
Source: Gibson Shipbrokers
The shipbroker added that “it is therefore likely that Ammonia will be one of the future fuels developed to replace current fossil fuels. There has already been some progress within the sector as earlier this year NYK announced that they would be looking into ammonia as a marine fuel. Wartsila is working on testing a four-stroke engine running on ammonia in conjunction with Knutsen Shipping and Repsol. These might be small steps, but the potential for ammonia as a bunker fuel is significant”, Gibson concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide