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Japan’s NYK and partners to develop ammonia fueled and fueling vessels

In recent weeks, the Japanese shipping company NYK Line has announced a series of high-profile research and development collaborations that aim to establish ammonia fueled vessels and fuel supply. Its partners in these projects include classification society Class NK, engine manufacturer IHI Power Systems, and shipbuilder Japan Marine United Corporation. Three vessel types have been announced, so far, including an ammonia-fueled ammonia gas carrier, an ammonia barge for offshore bunkering, and an ammonia-fueled tugboat (for navigating the barge). Pushing beyond the initial research phase, these collaborations aim for commercialization and to put these vessels “into practical use.”

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EPRI, GTI Launch Low-Carbon Initiative

Last month the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Gas Technology Institute (GTI) announced a new undertaking: the Low-Carbon Resources Initiative (LCRI). According to the organizations’ press release, over the next five years they will work together and with collaborating companies to “accelerate the development and demonstration of low-carbon energy technologies.”

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Zero emission aircraft: ammonia for aviation

This week, Reaction Engines announced a “ground-breaking study” on ammonia as a fuel for zero-emission aircraft. This will soon be followed by a demonstration project, “integrating the technology into a ground-based test engine.” The study combines Reaction Engines’ heat exchanger technology with the ammonia cracking technology being developed by the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). By partially cracking green ammonia to hydrogen, the resulting ammonia fuel mix “mimics jet fuel,” making it possible to adapt existing engines and aircraft to use zero-emission fuels. “This means a fast transition to a sustainable aviation future is possible at low cost.”

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Wärtsilä, Repsol, and Knutsen to test ammonia four-stroke engine

This week, engine manufacturer Wärtsilä announced “the world’s first long term, full-scale, testing of ammonia as a fuel in a marine four-stroke combustion engine.” The project will begin in the first quarter of 2021, at the Sustainable Energy Catapult Centre’s testing facilities at Stord, Norway. It is supported by a NOK 20 million (USD 2 million) grant from the Norwegian Research Council.

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Maersk and partners launch Center for Zero Carbon Shipping

This morning, the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping was announced. Launched with a “start-up donation” of DKK 400 million (USD 60 million) from the A.P. Møller Foundation, this new research institute intends “to develop new fuel types and technologies,” to decarbonize the maritime sector. Behind the Center for Zero Carbon Shipping is a significant industrial consortium with seven founding members (actively seeking additional partners): ABS, A.P. Moller – Maersk, Cargill, MAN Energy Solutions, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, NYK Lines, and Siemens Energy.

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Engie, Siemens, Ecuity, and STFC publish Feasibility of Ammonia-to-Hydrogen

The UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) recently published the feasibility study for its Ammonia to Green Hydrogen Project. This studies the techno-economic feasibility of importing green ammonia in order to supply large volumes of high-purity low-carbon hydrogen in the UK. The project has been designed and delivered by a heavyweight consortium of ENGIE, Siemens, Ecuity Consulting, and the UK’s STFC. The feasibility study, which is publicly available, represents the conclusion of Phase One of this project. Phase Two is demonstration: “to raise the TRL of a lithium imide based ammonia cracker from 4 to 6/7,” meaning that the technology is ready for deployment.

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Monash team publishes Ammonia Economy Roadmap

Earlier this month, Doug MacFarlane and his team of researchers at Monash University published A Roadmap to the Ammonia Economy in the journal Joule. The paper charts an evolution of ammonia synthesis “through multiple generations of technology development and scale-up.” It provides a clear assessment of “the increasingly diverse range of applications of ammonia as a fuel that is emerging,” and concludes with perspectives on the “broader scale sustainability of an ammonia economy,” with emphasis on the Nitrogen Cycle. The Roadmap is brilliant in its simple distillation of complex and competing technology developments across decades. It assesses the sustainability and scalability of three generations of ammonia synthesis technologies. Put simply, Gen1 is blue ammonia, Gen2 is green ammonia, and Gen3 is electrochemical ammonia. It also outlines the amount of research and development required before each could be broadly adopted (“commercial readiness”). The paper thus provides vital clarity on the role that each generation of technology could play in the energy transition, and the timing at which it could make its impact.

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Ammonia, Hydrogen P2X2P Demonstrations Slated for Europe

At this early point in the energy transition, many groups are formulating big-picture concepts for the design of a sustainable energy economy, and many more are developing discrete technologies that will be relevant as the transition advances. The multi-stakeholder H2020 European project known as “FLEXibilize combined cycle power plant through Power-to-X solutions using non-CONventional Fuels” (FLEXnCONFU) is coming from a different direction. Its premise is that construction of a bridge to the future should start now, and should be anchored in aspects of the current energy system that are likely to endure over the long-term.

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CSIRO at Work on SOEC Technology

Earlier this month the on-line trade journal gasworld published an interview with CSIRO's Ani Kulkarni that illuminated a research program focused on solid oxide electrolysis technology. The takeaway is that the CSIRO program is making progress that can, in Kulkarni’s words, “elevate this technology from the lab bench to become cost-effective at an industrial scale.”

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Methane splitting and turquoise ammonia

Most hydrogen today is produced from fossil fuels – steam methane reforming of natural gas, partial oxidation of coal or oil residues – and entails large CO2 emissions. This fossil hydrogen can be called “grey hydrogen”. Or sometimes, brown. The same color scheme applies to the ammonia produced from it, so we have “grey ammonia.” Or brown ammonia, your call. The exact carbon footprint depends on the fuel used and the efficiency of the facility, so you could easily identify many shades of grey. There is, however, another option to deliver clean hydrogen – and now another colour: turquoise, or green-blue (or blue-green). This is the colour of hydrogen from methane pyrolysis, a process that directly splits methane into hydrogen and solid carbon. Instead of being a waste, like CO2, that must be disposed of safely, solid carbon is potentially a resource.