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Maritime transport companies team up to study ammonia as viable bunker fuel option

23 Apr 2020

Gas supply chain risk management firm Bureau Veritas on Tuesday (21 April) said a group of leading companies in maritime transportation have taken up the challenge of investigating the realities of using ammonia (NH3) as a marine fuel, with specific focus on addressing technical and safety challenges.

Ammonia is one of a number of options to be a marine fuel of the future. One of the key elements in the group’s approach is to look at the broader spectrum of implications for many ship types and different operational requirements, including bunkering and port operations, it says. 

The company noted a first step was to hold a hazard identification workshop (HAZID) to understand the risks involved with using ammonia as a marine fuel. This was held in February 2020 at MAN Energy Solutions’s office in Copenhagen. 

“Ammonia is a carrier for hydrogen which can be generated from renewable energy and ammonia storage and transportation can, in principle, be managed with established technologies,” said Panos Koutsourakis, Global Technology Leader for Sustainable Shipping at Bureau Veritas.

“But ammonia is both toxic and corrosive. We need to understand, if and how, the associated risks can be managed to merit further practical and commercial development – especially confirming the potential for stable combustion and NOx emissions. 

“Furthermore, potential availability is not yet assured. Sufficient availability of ‘green’ ammonia would require the scalable development of ‘Power-to-X’ technologies to provide the volumes necessary for shipping.”

In comparison with conventional heavy fuel oils, ammonia is less energy dense, can be liquefied at -33°C, and stored at atmospheric pressure for use as a marine fuel, explains Bureau Veritas.

Currently, aspects of using ammonia are not explicitly covered by the existing regulatory framework – notably IMO’s International Code of Safety for Ship Using Gases or Other Low-flashpoint Fuels (the IGF Code), and require specific attention, notes the company.

The group will perform detailed risk studies to assess the technical feasibility and specific safety risks of ammonia fueled ships with a view to considering its potential as a safe fuel for the decarbonization of shipping, it adds. 

The company says the HAZID workshop held at MAN’s offices in Copenhagen was the first of these studies.

It noted that the workshop was carried out to identify the safety and operational hazards associated with the use of ammonia as fuel for propulsion on a VLCC. 

The study led to the identification of practical safeguards and recommendations which should be considered in order to lower the risks to As Low as Reasonably Practicable (ALARP), said Bureau Veritas. 

It added that the study also covered: NH3 storage space and bunker stations, NH3 Fuel Treatment Room and HP Fuel Pump Room (combined), Engine Room (Gas-safe), Vent/Safety system lines and Vent Mast and ship’s operations.

Further studies planned by the group will include addressing operational hazards and looking more in-depth at conceptual designs based on different vessel types, it concludes. 

The companies participating in the group include:

Alfa Laval, Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore, Capital Ship Management Corp, C-Job Naval Architects, CMB, DFDS, ENGIE, Exmar, Gaslog LNG Services Ltd, Gaztransport & Technigaz (GTT), MAN Energy Solutions, MOL, NYK, Samsung Heavy Industries, Shell International Trading and Shipping Company, Society for Gas as a Marine Fuel (SGMF), Star Bulk, Stena Teknik and Stolt Tankers.

Photo credit: Bureau Veritas
Published: 23 April, 2020

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