The first ammonia engines could be in operation by 2022 © VCG/ Getty Images
The first ammonia engines could be in operation by 2022 © VCG/ Getty Images

Ammonia could be green fuel for shipping

21 February 2020

The key ingredient of fertiliser could become a new green fuel for shipping as the industry looks for ways to meet commitments to cut emissions.

A report by the Royal Society said ammonia, the foundation for the nitrogen fertiliser industry, could power ships, despite the fact that currently ammonia production creates 1.8% of global CO2 emissions – the most of any chemical industry.

But the report said as new technology enables ammonia to be produced without creating carbon emissions, the maritime industry has begun to see it as a potential fuel for shipping.

The IMO in 2019 outlined its ambitions to fully decarbonise shipping by 2050, despite the long lifetime of large ships, often around 25 years. As a result the organisation has identified retrofitting engines to run on ammonia as a way of meeting this target, said the report.

Ammonia is easy to store and flexible to use in combustion engines and fuel cells as well as having good potential compared to other decarbonising technologies.

MAN Energy Solutions, a designer and manufacturer of marine engines, is currently developing ammonia fuelled-engines based on current liquid natural gas technology and believes that that the first ammonia engine could be in operation by early 2022.

The company is also seeking state approval to use ammonia as a marine fuel, said the report.

Meanwhile, Lloyd’s Register is considering granting approval in principle to Shanghai Merchant Ship Design & Research Institute for the design of a 180,000-ton ammonia-fuelled bulk carrier.

The report said that one way of making ammonia production carbon neutral is by trapping the CO2 emissions created when ammonia is produced, and burying the CO2 in underground rocks.

Another way of making “green” ammonia is to use renewable energy to produce it.

Separately, the UK Financial Reporting Council has announced a review of how companies and auditors assess and report on the impact of climate change.

It will look at how the quality of information provided by companies can support informed decision-making by investors and other stakeholders.

A report by think tank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit has found nearly half (49%) the world’s GDP, a total of $39tn, is now generated in places where authorities have set a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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