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Literature Review: Ammonia as a Fuel for Compression Ignition Engines

The diesel engine, also known as the compression ignition (CI) engine, has been a workhorse of the modern energy economy for more than a hundred years. Its role in the coming sustainable energy economy will be determined by its ability to co-evolve with climate-friendly fuels. Two researchers from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan have now examined the fit between ammonia and the CI engine. Pavlos Dimitriou and Rahat Javaid arrive at a two-part conclusion in their paper, “A review of ammonia as a compression ignition engine fuel,” published in January in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy. Part one is good news: “Ammonia as a compression ignition fuel can be currently seen as a feasible solution.” Part two is a dose of qualifying reality: to manage emissions of N2O, NOx, and unburnt NH3, “aftertreatment systems are mandatory for the adaptation of this technology,” which means that ammonia-fueled CI engines are likely to be feasible “only for marine, power generation and possibly heavy-duty applications where no significant space constraints exist.”

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Environmental and Economic Assessment of Ammonia as a Fuel for Ships

This month, the Korean Register published a comparative assessment of the environmental and economic merits of using ammonia as a maritime fuel. The work, written in collaboration with researchers at Pusan National University, is published in the open-access Journal of Marine Science and Engineering. It concludes that "ammonia can be a carbon-free fuel for ships," and presents "a meaningful approach toward solving GHG problems in the maritime industry."

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Royal Society publishes Green Ammonia policy briefing

This week, the UK's Royal Society published an influential "Green Ammonia" policy briefing on ammonia as a "zero-carbon fertiliser, fuel and energy store." Rather than provide a comprehensive summary here — the Royal Society policy briefing is freely available to download — I want to focus only on four specific figures. These four illustrations repackage previously available data in valuable new ways, communicating key insights around the barriers to and opportunities for ammonia energy.

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Korean Register Sees Ammonia as Preferred Alternative Maritime Fuel

Last week the classification society Korean Register of Shipping (KR) released Forecasting the Alternative Marine Fuel: Ammonia, a “technical document on the characteristics and the current status of ammonia as ship fuel.” One hesitates to take the title too literally, but the report really does forecast that ammonia will be the alternative marine fuel. Over the last year, a number of maritime transport stakeholders – engine producers, government agencies, other classification societies – have identified ammonia as a promising means of industry decarbonization. But in joining the group, KR makes a notably explicit and complete case in ammonia’s favor.

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Updating the literature: Ammonia consumes 43% of global hydrogen

For years, many people — myself included — have been saying that ammonia consumes 55% of the hydrogen produced around the world. Although there are many authoritative sources for this figure, I knew that it was likely out of date. Until now, I had overlooked the International Energy Agency (IEA) 2019 report, The Future of Hydrogen, which provides up-to-date (and publicly downloadable) data for global hydrogen demand since 1975. According to the IEA, ammonia represented almost 43% of global hydrogen demand in 2018; refining represented almost 52%, and "other" demands accounted for 6%.

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Australia Issues National Hydrogen Strategy

Last month the Council of Australian Governments Energy Council – “a Ministerial forum for the Commonwealth [of Australia], states and territories and New Zealand, to work together in the pursuit of national energy reforms” – issued a 137-page report entitled Australia’s National Hydrogen Strategy. For those focused on how ammonia energy will go from promising idea to practical reality, this is what the next step – the one after the discovery of ammonia's virtues as a hydrogen carrier – could look like. The Strategy is detailed, comprehensive, and concerned with both practical measures in the near term and the arc of progress over the long term. And embedded within it are three ideas that are likely to have on-going relevance for ammonia energy implementation.

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Safety of Ammonia Energy: First Up, the Maritime Use Case?

ANNUAL REVIEW 2019: Ammonia.  A hazardous chemical, no doubt.  But is it too hazardous to use as an energy vector?  This is a legitimate question that must be addressed as other aspects of the ammonia energy concept advance.  It is also a question whose unique context can be evoked with two other questions: Haven’t the safety issues already been identified and resolved over the last 100 years of widespread agricultural and industrial use?  And even if they have, how will the general public react when proposals for expanded ammonia infrastructure suddenly appear? The earliest tip of this particular iceberg came into view this year when the Dutch naval architecture firm C-Job released Safe and Effective Application of Ammonia as a Marine Fuel.

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Ammonia Featured in South Australia’s Hydrogen Action Plan

The Australian state of South Australia took another step into the hydrogen future this week when it unveiled its Hydrogen Action Plan at the International Conference on Hydrogen Safety in Adelaide.  The heart of the Action Plan consists of the practical measures that governments undertake in areas such as infrastructure, workforce, and regulatory framework development.  Zoom out, though, and it is clear that fostering a major export position in green hydrogen is first among equals in the Action Plan's priorities.  And this being the case, it is no surprise that ammonia is singled out for special attention.