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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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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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Ammonia energy is now a talking point for CEOs

Chief executives of major corporations are now talking about ammonia energy. This represents another crucial step up the learning curve for clean industry: knowledge about ammonia's potential has successfully spread from the R&D department to the executive suite. This is the difference between development and deployment. The fertilizer industry saw this in 2018, when the CEOs of first movers like Yara and OCP announced green ammonia pilot plants. These latest announcements come, however, from the shipping and power sectors — far bigger industries, with no existing ammonia business — and they focus on the use of green ammonia: for fuel and for profit.

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Green Ammonia Consortium: A Force for Ammonia Energy

Japan’s Green Ammonia Consortium, an industry body dedicated to building “a value chain from supply to use of CO2-free ammonia,” launched its Web site on December 5. The site features plenty of interesting content, but most significant may be the roster of members. Eighty seven companies, public organizations, and individuals are listed. Taken together they represent a significant force for ammonia energy implementation in Japan and beyond.

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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.