A new study finds that ammonia-powered vessels could be deployed on the iron ore trade routes between West Australia and East Asia from 2028. The study presents a development scenario where deployment increases steadily to 23 vessels by 2030, and 364 vessels by 2050. The availability of bunkering infrastructure to support these routes is “within reach”, with the Pilbara region and Singapore likely to act as key bunkering hubs for ammonia. The authors suggest that fuel supply will not be a concern, with a series of production mega-projects under development around Australia – more than sufficient to meet the fuel requirements of the green corridor. The high-profile study consortium includes the Global Maritime Forum, BHP, Rio Tinto, Oldendorff Carriers, and Star Bulk Carriers.
All the core elements for implementation of a West Australia-East Asia green corridor – technology development, engine availability, fuel availability and regulations – are on track to be ready by the end of this decade. However, the authors note that a handful of key conditions are yet to be fulfilled:
- the safety case for the use of ammonia as marine fuel must still be validated and widely accepted
- policy support to close the cost gap between conventional and future fuels will be needed to unlock investment
- and continued collaboration between shipping stakeholders throughout the value chain must continue. A task force organised by the Getting to Zero Coalition is already working on what commercial frameworks are required to realise an Australia-East Asia iron ore green corridor
The authors also note that – should ammonia supply from Australia not be ready by 2028 – ammonia fuel procured through a book & claim system would serve as a viable back-up option. Regional initiatives – such as the Australian government’s under-development GO scheme – would support this approach.
The study builds on pre-feasibility work presented in a late 2021 report by the Getting to Zero Coalition (The Next Wave: Green Corridors). But where the Next Wave report only highlighted the Australia-Japan and Australia-China iron ore shipping routes as potential candidates, the new study expanded its focus. Ammonia fuel could power iron ore transport corridors between West Australia and destinations all across East Asia.