Ammonia as a workboat fuel
In the search for reducing emissions from commercial vessels the two fully emission free fuels are hydrogen and ammonia writes Dag Pike.
Ammonia does not readily spring to mind as a fuel as it is best known as an essential ingredient in fertilizers but it can work as a fuel for both diesel engines and gas turbines.
The comparison is being made between using hydrogen and ammonia and the main difference is that ammonia can be liquefied at -33°C compared with the extreme low temperatures required for liquefying hydrogen. Ammonia can be stored at ambient temperatures under a 10 bar pressure compared with the 350 or more bar required for hydrogen which makes the requirements for bunkering and handling ammonia much less onerous. Storing ammonia on board is also much easier with the lower pressures and higher temperatures required for the tanks. However ammonia is poisonous which could pose a danger unless carefully handled but safety rules are well established.
Work is going ahead on developing an ammonia-fuelled engine with $5.7 million allocated over a 3 year period by MAN and the first ammonia unit based on their ME-LGIP engine could then be in operation in 3 years time. Naval architects C-Job has made a study of ammonia fuelled ships and developed designs for both cargo and passenger ships of the future. The use of ammonia as a fuel in workboats is likely to start with engines for tugs and larger offshore workboats where dual fuel engines using LNG and diesel are already in operation. The availability of ammonia as a fuel for tugs could be relatively easy to arrange when the tug is operating from a specific harbour all the time.
Amongst classification societies Lloyds Register has predicted that ammonia is the most competitive fuel for zero emission maritime vessels whilst DNV GL has predicted a significant increase in carbon neutral fuels with 35% of the fleet using these fuels but it does not separate out ammonia from its competitors such as hydrogen and biofuels. DNV GL points out in a report that ammonia can be used to generate electricity directly via a fuel cell and this could be a route followed by workboat designers where electric propulsion already is established.
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