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Wärtsilä Tests Internal Combustion of Ammonia

Last week Wärtsilä, the Finnish engine and energy equipment manufacturer, unveiled the latest stage in its engagement with ammonia as an energy vector. In a press release headlined “Wärtsilä advances future fuel capabilities with first ammonia tests,” the company described a test program aimed at exploring ammonia’s properties as an internal combustion fuel. Kaj Portin, General Manager of Fuel & Operational Flexibility in Wärtsilä’s Marine division, commented that “the first tests have yielded promising results.”

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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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Ammonia as a unicorn technology and the UK’s opportunity for COP26

The Guardian newspaper in the UK this week published a comment piece on ammonia's potential as a "unicorn technology," which the authors define as a technology that can "deliver a reduction of at least a billion tonnes of CO2 a year." The article focused on the UK's opportunity, as host of the upcoming COP26 meeting in Glasgow this November, to take a leadership position in solving climate change. The authors, all based at the University of Oxford, outline a strategy by which the UK government could leverage existing British business and academic expertise to build global coalitions, to develop, demonstrate, and roll out "the 'hydrammonia' economy."

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ARPA-E Issues RFI for Next-Gen Ammonia System Integration

This week the United States Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) issued a Request for Information under the title “Next Generation Ammonia System Integration Project.” This is a strong signal that ARPA-E intends to see the ammonia energy technologies in its portfolio through to commercial fruition.

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Gigastack Phase 2 Receives Funding in the UK

Earlier this week the United Kingdom’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced that a group led by ITM Power has been awarded GBP 7.5 million (USD $9.7 million) for the second phase of a renewable hydrogen project dubbed “Gigastack.” According to the BEIS announcement, “Gigastack will demonstrate the delivery of bulk, low-cost and zero-carbon hydrogen through ITM Power’s gigawatt scale polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolysers . . .” with the goal of “dramatically reduc[ing] the cost of electrolytic hydrogen.” The hydrogen produced will be used for petroleum refining, although the project partners have their eyes on opportunities that go well beyond desulfurization of oil.

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Viking Energy to be retrofit for ammonia fuel in 2024

This morning, it was announced that the "Viking Energy," a supply vessel for Equinor's offshore operations, will be modified to run on a 2 MW direct ammonia fuel cell. This will be a five year project: the technology will be scaled-up on land before being installed on the vessel, which will begin a year of GHG emission-free operations in 2024. The Norwegian partners leading this "world's first" project include shipowner Eidesvik, contractor Equinor, and ammonia producer Yara, as well as Wärtsilä (Wärtsilä Norway), responsible for power technology and ammonia storage and distribution systems, and Prototech, delivering the fuel cell system.

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Ontario Tech Develops Its Own Flavor of Direct Ammonia Fuel Cell

How simple can a fuel cell be? How about if it’s a direct ammonia fuel cell? This question came to mind during perusal of a paper that appeared in the June 2019 edition of the journal Chemical Engineering Science. The paper, “Development and performance evaluation of a direct ammonia fuel cell stack,” was written by Osamah Siddiqui and Ibrahim Dincer, both active within the Clean Energy Research Laboratory at Ontario Tech University in Canada. Their design may or may not ever reach the point of commercialization, but there is no denying its essential simplicity.

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Ammonia-fueled ships: entering the design phase

Three separate projects to design a range of ammonia-fueled vessels were announced last week at a shipping industry conference in China. Lloyd's Register has granted Approval in Principle (AiP) for the design of a 180,000 ton bulk carrier. ABS announced a project to "produce designs for an ammonia-fueled Chittagongmax container carrier of 2700 TEU capacity." And Lloyd's Register also announced a project for "an ammonia-fuelled 23,000 TEU Ultra-Large Container Ship (ULCS) concept design." All three projects are working with the two-stroke ammonia engine developed by MAN Energy Solutions, and all are led by major shipbuilders in China.

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Small-Scale Ammonia Synthesis Technology on Track for 2021

On October 6, 2019, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun published an article that confirmed a goal set at the 2017 launch of Japanese chemical technology developer Tsubame BHB. The goal is to have Tsubame’s ammonia synthesis technology ready for licensing in 2021. According to Tsubame’s English-language Web site, its technology “makes it possible to produce ammonia even at small-scale plants” – good news for ammonia energy project developers interested in distributed production concepts.