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Smells like sustainability: Harnessing ammonia as a ship fuel

Ammonia is one of the most promising future fuels in the maritime world, but introducing it to the fuel mix is far from straightforward, states DNV.




SL1 Tan 372 Green ammonia – production and use tcm71 216560

Classification society DNV on Tuesday (8 February) published the industry insight article ‘Smells like sustainability: Harnessing ammonia as ship fuel’.

It highlights some of the central questions that need to be answered before ammonia-fuelled ships enter the shipping market, including the supply, sustainability, engine technology and the necessary safety considerations.

Supply: Shipping will have to compete with other industries

Today, around 80 per cent of the global ammonia supply is used as fertilizer. Where will the ammonia for shipping come from? This is an issue that remains to be resolved, and production would have to ramp up significantly to meet the future demands of both shipping and global agriculture.

“In the context of decarbonization it’s important to understand that when we talk about ammonia’s great potential for shipping, we mean green ammonia. The fuel’s sustainability credentials vary depending on how it is sourced,” explains Hendrik Brinks, Principal Researcher for Zero Carbon Fuels at DNV.

SL1 Tan 372 Green ammonia – production and use tcm71 216560

Fuel suppliers working on framework for green ammonia production

The fuel can be categorized as “brown” (produced from fossil sources), “blue” (produced from fossil sources with carbon capture) or “green” (produced from renewably sourced hydrogen in a process called electrolysis). “While the production of blue ammonia results in 85 per cent less CO2 emissions than brown variants, only green ammonia is a zero-carbon fuel,” he adds.

The crux is: green ammonia is currently not produced anywhere. This is expected to change over the coming decade. “Several fuel suppliers are already doing a lot of work on the necessary framework for producing green ammonia, including certification, technology and costs,” says Brinks.

Engine technology: First ammonia-fuelled engine by 2024

While the supply of green ammonia will take time, the development of engine technology is progressing fast. In the AEngine joint development project (JDP), MAN Energy Solutions, Eltronic FuelTech, the Technical University of Denmark and DNV are working together on developing the first dual-fuel ammonia-powered combustion engines. The AEngine project is funded by the Innovation Fund Denmark. With combustion testing scheduled for this spring, MAN’s two-stroke model is expected to go to market in 2024.

T2 Ind 351 MAN Engine AEngine joint development project tcm71 218137

In the AEngine JDP, MAN Energy Solutions, Eltronic FuelTech, the Technical University of Denmark and DNV are working on the development of the MAN ME-LGIa ammonia-burning engine.

“As an engine designer we are agnostic when it comes to the different fuel types,” says Peter H. Kirkeby, Principal Specialist, Dual-Fuel Engines at MAN Energy Solutions. “Ammonia has generated a lot of interest, especially from the deep-sea ship segments, and it has a lot of potential – but developing an engine that is powered by ammonia has been a challenge. One of the biggest hurdles is how to burn ammonia efficiently to extract the maximum amount of power while making sure the engine is still a compact design.”

Unlike diesel oil, ammonia has a very slow flame propagation, which means it burns much more slowly. Its autoignition temperature is also a lot higher, at around 630°C – diesel oil burns at 210°C. This means that sustaining combustion once it gets started is also more difficult with ammonia than with other fuels.

“And, of course, you also need to ensure that the engine allows for the usual performance peaks that come with acceleration, etc. We are planning for a final fuel mix that would contain around 95 per cent ammonia and 5 per cent of a pilot fuel such as marine gas oil. In the future this could even be biofuel,” says Kirkeby.

Harmful emissions could be mitigated by combustion process

Mitigating harmful emissions is another significant challenge, even with green ammonia. While carbon-free, ammonia contains a lot of nitrogen, and burning it is likely to result in both nitrogen oxide (NOX) and nitrous oxide emissions. Kirkeby explains that NOX emissions weren’t so much of an issue for the engine manufacturer. “They are well-regulated and the abatement technology for NOX – selective catalytic reaction – is already used on many ships and should also be suitable for ammonia. Nitrous oxide emissions are the greater challenge. N2O, or laughing gas, is a very aggressive greenhouse gas that is 283 times stronger than CO2. Our approach is to use the combustion process itself to mitigate these emissions.”

This is how it could be done: burning ammonia generates nitrous oxide emissions inside a certain pressure and temperature window during the combustion process. “Through combustion tuning, we can either stay clear of that window or we can go into the temperature and pressure range where it’s decomposed again. In the diesel cycle, which is the one we use, you have very good control over this,” says Kirkeby.

The final challenge has been to adapt the well-established two-stroke engine system to ammonia without changing the fundamentally good things about it. “We have to make it a very simple system that can also handle ammonia – meaning that it is modular enough to allow for easy troubleshooting and for crews to have straightforward maintenance procedures even though the fuel is a toxic substance.”

T3 Ind 351 MAN engine testbed tcm71 218138

The MAN Energy Solutions test bed plays a crucial role in the development of ammonia combustion technology, which, while carbon-free, must ensure safety and avoid corrosion.

Ammonia tankers ideal first users

Looking ahead, the first engines will likely be installed on ammonia tankers. Currently there are about 200 gas tankers that can take ammonia as cargo and typically 40 of them are deployed with ammonia cargo at any point in time. These kinds of vessels could be ideal candidates as they already have the fuel as cargo and crews with experience in handling ammonia. Other segments such as bulk carriers and containerships could follow suit. DNV expects the first ammonia-fuelled vessels to hit the water in the second half of this decade, but large-scale uptake of this technology is not expected until the early 2030s.

The safety of ammonia systems and operational procedures is at the top of the agenda in DNV’s work on this fuel. In the AEngine joint development project, DNV is handling the safety aspects and will be performing risk assessments with regard to hazard identification (HAZID), hazard and operability (HAZOP) and failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA).

Safety: Mitigating ammonia toxicity

DNV class rules for ammonia as ship fuel were published in July 2021, paving the way for technology development. They include provisions for storing, handling and bunkering ammonia on board. Some of the aspects to consider here include the use of toxicity zones and venting masts in specific locations.

The engine technology itself would be fitted with double wall piping, so that the pipe containing ammonia is surrounded by a ventilated space, making it easy to detect leaks. “This is a common standard for all alternative fuels,” explains Christos Chryssakis, Business Development Manager and Alternative Fuels Expert at DNV. Additional solutions such as double block and bleed valves ensure that systems can be separated for maintenance.

“Our class rules for ammonia are based on experience with ammonia as a refrigerant and as cargo. We are constantly updating these rules, as ongoing research offers further insights into the necessary margins to ensure that systems are not only safe but also practical in their handling,” says Chryssakis. “Carrying out risk assessments on the first designs for ammonia-fuelled vessels will be an important next step.”

DNV carries out studies on ammonia bunkering

Looking beyond operations on board ammonia-fuelled vessels, DNV recently completed studies on ammonia bunkering operations in the Ports of Amsterdam and Oslo, examining the potential ramifications of a large ammonia leak in ports. “We looked at worst-case scenarios, including the implications of leaks in the port-side supply infrastructure and on a bunker vessel. The Port of Oslo lies in a residential area – so the stakes are particularly high here,” explains Chryssakis.

“We defined external safety zones and risk-reduction measures, looking at the radius which would be affected by an ammonia leak. For the Port of Oslo, we found that in principle using a bunkering vessel with refrigerated ammonia would come with an acceptable risk level, because the residential area in Oslo would not be affected by a leak. But there is still work to be done to ensure safe handling on board.”

The Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation (GCMD) in Singapore also just recently initiated a study that aims to define a robust set of safety guidelines and operational envelopes that will establish the basis of a regulatory sandbox for ammonia bunkering trials at two local sites. DNV will take the lead in that safety study and supports with ammonia demand forecasting, bunkering site recommendations, the development of conceptual designs of bunkering modes like truck to ship or ship to ship, HAZID/HAZOP/QRA studies, as well as drafting of technical and operational guidelines.

“There are many parts to this puzzle and it’s essential that we have them all in place for ammonia to safely enter the marine fuel market,” says Hendrik Brinks. “We will need rigorous safety procedures, the inclusion of ammonia in international regulations as well as engine designs that control harmful emissions and allow for straightforward maintenance protocols. And of course, highly skilled crews that are trained to handle ammonia and green ammonia in sufficient supply. Only then can ammonia reach its full potential as one of the most promising green fuels.”

Related: Future-proofing shipping: The decarbonization game-changer
Related: DNV joint industry project analyses ammonia-ready VLCC design as decarbonisation option
Related: DNV selected to lead ‘pioneering’ ammonia bunkering safety study in Singapore
Related: Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation awards ammonia bunkering safety study to DNV-led consortium
Related: DNV: Green ammonia a ‘key ingredient’ to decarbonise maritime industry
Related: DNV Decarbonisation Insights: Singapore’s pathway to Net Zero and the role of Ammonia


Source: DNV
Photo credit: DNV, MAN Energy Solutions
Published: 10 February, 2022

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Mitsubishi Shipbuilding receives orders for Japan’s first methanol-fuelled RoRo cargo ship duo

Two ships will be built at the Enoura Plant of MHI’s Shimonoseki Shipyard & Machinery Works in Yamaguchi Prefecture, with scheduled completion and delivery by the end of fiscal 2027.





Mitsubishi Shipbuilding receives orders for Japan's first methanol-fuelled RoRo cargo ship duo

Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co., Ltd., a part of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Group, on Wednesday (19 June) said it has received orders from Toyofuji Shipping and Fukuju Shipping for Japan's first methanol-fueled roll-on/roll-off (RORO) cargo ships. 

The two ships will be built at the Enoura Plant of MHI's Shimonoseki Shipyard & Machinery Works in Yamaguchi Prefecture, with scheduled completion and delivery by the end of fiscal 2027.

The ships will be approximately 169.9 meters in overall length and 30.2 meters in breadth, with 15,750 gross tonnage, and loading capacity for around 2,300 passenger vehicles.

A windscreen at the bow and a vertical stem are used to reduce propulsion resistance, while fuel efficiency is improved by employing MHI's proprietary energy-saving system technology combing high-efficiency propellers and high-performance rudders with reduced resistance. 

The main engine is a high-performance dual-fuel engine that can use both methanol and A heavy fuel oil, reducing CO2 emissions by more than 10% compared to ships with the same hull and powered by fuel oil, contributing to a reduced environmental impact. 

In the future, the use of green methanol(2) may lead to further reduction in CO2 emissions, including throughout the lifecycle of the fuel. Methanol-fueled RORO ships have already entered into service as ocean-going vessels around the world, but this is the first construction of coastal vessels for service in Japan.

In addition, the significant increase in vehicle loading capacity and transport capacity per voyage compared to conventional vessels will provide greater leeway in the ship allocation schedule, securing more holiday and rest time for the crew, thereby contributing to working style reforms.

Mitsubishi Shipbuilding, to address the growing needs from the modal shift in marine transport against the backdrop of CO2 reductions in land transportation, labor shortages, and working style reforms, will continue to work with its business partners to provide solutions for a range of societal issues by building ferries and RORO vessels with excellent fuel efficiency and environmental performance that contribute to stable navigation for customers.


Photo credit: Mitsubishi Shipbuilding
Published: 20 June, 2024

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Maersk and Nike to christen methanol-fuelled boxship at Port of Los Angeles in August

Powered by methanol for its maiden voyage and capable of carrying more than 16,000 containers, the vessel will get its new name at a private ceremony at Port of Los Angeles Outer Harbor.






A.P. Moller – Maersk (Maersk) on Wednesday (19 June) said it will be christening one of the world’s first methanol-enabled vessels when it arrives in Los Angeles this August.

The firm invited the public to go aboard the container ship in Los Angeles.

Powered by methanol for its maiden voyage and capable of carrying more than 16,000 containers (TEU), the vessel will get its new name at a private ceremony at the Port of Los Angeles Outer Harbor on Tuesday, August 27. 

Maersk’s CEO Vincent Clerc will be on hand, alongside special guest speakers from Nike and leading state and local officials. Nike is a partner in the name-giving event.

“Nike is committed to protecting the future of sport and we leverage science-based targets to guide us through our Move to Zero journey,” said Venkatesh Alagirisamy, Nike Chief Supply Chain Officer.

“Operating one of the largest supply chains in the world, we have a responsibility to advance the innovation and use of more sustainable methods that get us closer to zero carbon and zero waste. By working with suppliers like Maersk, who share our commitment to sustainability, we are scaling our use of biofuels in ocean transportation, our main first-mile delivery channel.”

“This event is not only an opportunity to celebrate a remarkable engineering achievement, but the chance to highlight that we can navigate towards more sustainable supply chains if we work together,” said Charles van der Steene, Regional President for Maersk North America.

On Wednesday, August 28, Maersk invites the public to tour the 350-meter-long vessel, which will be sailing from Asia. Visitors will be able to see the Sailors’ living quarters and even stand on the bridge from where the captain controls the vessel. Public tours will require visitors register for a free ticket via an online registration site that will be activated and announced in August.

This is the fifth container vessel in Maersk’s fleet that can sail on green methanol bunker fuel.


Photo credit: A.P. Moller – Maersk
Published: 20 June, 2024

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Methanol Institute: Innovative developments and strategic collaborations (Week 24, 10-16 June 2024)

This week highlights notable advancements in methanol fuel technology, strategic partnerships, and industry analyses, underscoring the maritime sector’s ongoing commitment to sustainable fuel solutions.





Methanol Institute logo

The Methanol Institute, provides an exclusive weekly commentary on developments related to the adoption of methanol as a bunker fuel, including significant related events recorded during the week, for the readers of bunkering publication Manifold Times:

The past week saw further additions to the potential capacity for production of methanol with announcement of a new facility using waste biomass to create biomethanol for the maritime market. Elsewhere, plans for additional port storage was announced at key ports in China. Finally, analysis by Ship & bunker shows that almost half of the bunker capacity represented by the newbuilding orderbook will be powered by alternative fuels.

Methanol marine fuel related developments for Week 24 of 2024:

Norway to Develop Bio-e-Methanol Production Facility

Date: June 10, 2024

Key Points: Glocal Green and Norwegian Hydrogen are partnering to build a bio-e-methanol plant in Øyer, Gudbrandsdalen, Norway. The facility will produce 10,000 metric tonnes of bio-e-methanol annually, using hydrogen and CO2 from bio-waste and wood waste. The project aims to support the maritime sector's transition to green fuels, leveraging local renewable resources to create sustainable methanol, thus contributing to Norway's environmental goals and the broader global push for cleaner energy solutions.

Green Marine Fuels and Vopak Collaborate on Green Methanol Storage Facilities

Date: June 12, 2024

Key Points: Green Marine Fuels Trading and Vopak have announced a strategic partnership to develop green methanol storage facilities at key ports, including Shanghai Caojing and Tianjin Lingang in China. This collaboration aims to expand the infrastructure needed to support the growing demand for green methanol as a sustainable marine fuel. The facilities will enhance the supply chain for green methanol, aligning with global efforts to decarbonize the shipping industry and promote the use of alternative fuels.

Global Orderbook Analysis: Conventional vs. Alternative Bunker Fuel Demand

Date: June 13, 2024

Key Points: An analysis of the global newbuilding orderbook, conducted by Ship and Bunker, reveals that of a total 33.8 million tonnes (mt) of bunker demand, alternative fuelled ships represent 46% or 15.6mt of bunker demand.

Methanol accounts for 3.2 mt (10%) compared to 10.5mt (31%) for LNG, a figure skewed by the vast orderbook for LNG carriers which partly use their cargo as fuel.

The data from DNV Alternative Fuels Insight indicates a significant shift towards alternative fuels, driven by containerships and LNG carriers, reflecting the maritime industry's continuing focus on reducing carbon emissions and adopting greener fuel options.


Photo credit: Methanol Institute
Published: 20 June, 2024

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