CENTRO INTERNAZIONALE STUDI CONTAINERS
ANNO XXXVIII - Numero SETTEMBRE 2020
TRANSPORT AND ENVIRONMENT
WHY AMMONIA MAY BE PART OF THE FUTURE FUEL MIX
More points to ammonia as a promising zero-emission fuel.
When based on wind or solar energy, it is a carbon-neutral option,
with the infrastructure already in place, and ready to be
mass-produced. After overcoming the challenges such us higher costs
and the development of a new engine technology, it may become a part
of the future fuel mix.
"You need to build a scalable production of ammonia,
utilising offshore windmill-fields or solar-power plants to
provide the clean electricity required."
September 08 2020 - In connection with the UN Climate
Action Summit, MAN Energy Solutions joined the Getting to Zero
Coalition in September 2019 to help develop zero-emission vessels by
2030 with its industry partners.
We view the Getting to Zero Coalition's aims as closely aligned
with our own strategy of cooperating with external partners to
expand our business with sustainable technologies and solutions,
such that they become our main source of revenue by 2030.
As I said, at the time of our joining the coalition, we
understand the need to work with a wide group of industry partners
to achieve this strategy and the Getting to Zero Coalition is
therefore a perfect match. In shipping, MAN Energy Solutions has
publicly spoken out in favour of a 'maritime energy transition' for
some time now, which draws on the increased use of low-emission
fuels. For us, the path to decarbonising the maritime economy starts
with fuel decarbonisation, which will be a natural step towards the
development of zero emission vessels.
But what fuel?
January 1, 2020, marked a milestone for the maritime shipping
industry. From that date, all vessels became bound by new IMO rules
restricting the use of high-sulphur fuels. While compliance with
this was relatively straightforward for shipowners, decarbonisation
will prove a tougher nut to crack and requires swift action.
As such, ships launched in 2030 will still be at sea in 2050
when - according to an IMO strategy adopted in April 2018 - the
sector must reduce its total annual greenhouse gas emissions by at
Potential zero-carbon fuels include alternative fuels like
synthetic methane, alcohol, green hydrogen, and ammonia. In this
respect, there's naturally a bit of uncertainty because everybody
realises the need for change. But it is also clear that you do not
have just one solution.
Ammonia is a promising candidate
As a potential zero-carbon fuel, ammonia is an interesting
candidate. Indeed, the DNV-GL declared in 2019: "Ammonia is the
most promising, carbon-neutral fuel option for newbuildings."
Since large quantities of ammonia are already transported around
the world, it is a well-established commodity with some 120 ports
globally currently importing/exporting it, and some with storage
facilities. Thus, using ammonia to power ships would be a natural
step with infrastructure already in place.
The companies already producing and distributing ammonia around
the world know ammonia technology and have an incentive to showcase
it as it is a sustainable technology that could provide new business
Sustainable production and competitivity
When discussing future fuels, one thing is clean sulphur-free
fuels but the CO2 footprint of such fuels also needs to be looked
at. In this context, so-called power-to-X solutions where fuels are
produced from sustainable energy sources are worth investigating.
The ammonia you have in the market today is CO2-free but based
more on fossil fuel. Manufacturing green ammonia implies that you
take electricity created by windmills and react hydrogen with
nitrogen to produce ammonia. What is interesting about this is that
there is no carbon involved in the process, making it a completely
There are certain barriers, however, for ammonia and green
ammonia - as there are with green or synthetic methane. It is
relatively expensive, compared to fossil-based fuels. When talking
about merchant shipping and the two-stroke business, solutions need
to be business-viable.
Even if the cost of moving goods by sea increases in the future
due to the introduction of zero-carbon fuels, it will still be the
most efficient method as nothing can compete with shipping in terms
of transporting goods. What we need to do is to create global
coalitions and get the IMO to support a CO2 tax, and then funnel the
money into R&D development and into developing solutions for the
supply chain and large-scale production of these fuel types.
Ultimately, you need to build a scalable production of ammonia,
utilising offshore windmill-fields or solar-power plants to provide
the clean electricity required. Hand in hand with this, the ammonia
supply-chain will have to be scaled up so that sufficient bunkering
capacity is in place to supply vessels. Another requirement is, of
course, a suitable engine technology.
First ammonia engine by 2024
MAN Energy Solutions has a convincing track record in developing
engines running on alternative fuels, having developed the world's
first oceangoing ships driven respectively by LNG, methanol, ethane,
In a technical paper released in late 2019, we noted that the
two-stroke ammonia concept is an add-on to our electronic ME-engine
and similar to the previous engine concepts for liquid gas injection
propane (ME-LGIP) and liquid gas injection methanol (ME-LGIM).
The development of the LGI engine has already addressed
challenges similar to those posed by ammonia - namely corrosion,
toxicity and low flammability - and there would be little difference
between an ammonia engine and the ME-LGIP/LGIM engines. In light of
this, we aim to deliver the first ammonia-fuelled, two-stroke engine
Ammonia-engine development will take place at our Research
Centre Copenhagen (RCC) facility. We already kickstarted the project
in early 2020 with a HAZID (hazard identification) workshop.
Subsequently, the first engine tests are scheduled to begin in 2021
where the ammonia supply and auxiliary systems will be specified,
with an after-treatment (emissions) solution specified by 2022. NOx
emissions reductions are expected to be achieved via a Selective
Catalytic Reaction (SCR) system, which has already proven itself in
A full-scale engine test is scheduled for 2023, the success of
which will enable the first delivery of an ammonia-fuelled engine to
the market in 2024. We are also working diligently towards a
dual-fuel, ammonia-retrofit solution for existing engines, which
will be available from Q1 2025.
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