Ammonia has recently emerged as perhaps the hottest candidate to become the marine fuel of the future. And as expected, the first completed pre-study within the Transport administration’s industry program shows that it has potential. But there are a number of question marks remaining and the research continues in a larger project within the same program.
In August 2019, researchers at the University of Delaware reported that they had developed a battery whose fuel cells run on ammonia and could drive a car. And this week came the news that the European ShipFC project, coordinated from Norway, received € 10 million in EU grants to develop such a battery to run a ship. This will be installed on the Norwegian supply vessel Viking Energy as early as 2023.
"Not much studies have been done on ammonia as a marine fuel in the past, but now suddenly many stakeholders are interested in it and, in parallel with us, others are trying to analyze and understand the potential," Julia Hansson, a researcher at IVL Swedish Environment Institute and project manager, said in June last year when the pre-study on ammonia was presented by Lighthouse.
Now she knows that the potential exists in ammonia, but that a long way remains before vessels can run on the liquid carbon-free fuel. The use in maritime engines must be tested and efficiency and emissions investigated, and issues related to environmental and safety aspects must be investigated.
“An in-depth analysis of ammonia as a marine fuel is needed from a system perspective and further comparison with other fuels, which looks at technology, economics, safety and environmental aspects. Such a project has already been granted within the Sustainable Shipping industry program”, Julia Hansson says.
The project Hydrogen, ammonia and battery operation for future shipping, which is led by Selma Brynolf at Chalmers, is actually already underway. In addition to the comparison with other fuels, the prestudy calls for a f A feasibility study on the potential to apply ammonia as a marine fuel, including analysis of fuel systems, bunkering, safety routines etc.
”A demonstration project is also needed where an engine is converted for ammonia operation and evaluated. Similarly, a study of fuel cells in combination with ammonia is needed, and that is now part of the EU project ShipFC. Things are moving and is gratifying”, Julia Hansson says.