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Safe and Effective? New Study Evaluates Ammonia as a Marine Fuel

In mid-June the Dutch naval architecture firm C-Job released "Safe and effective application of ammonia as a marine fuel," a thesis written by the firm’s Lead Naval Architect Niels de Vries for the Marine Technology Master of Science program at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. While the thesis delivers an extensive assessment of ammonia's potential effectiveness as a marine fuel, it breaks new ground in its consideration of ammonia's safety in this context.

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An Open Letter to the International Energy Agency

To the Authors of The Future of Hydrogen:
First I would like to thank you for an excellent report.  I have devoted two Ammonia Energy posts to The Future of Hydrogen.  If you read them, you will see that my appraisal is overwhelmingly positive.  But I am writing this letter because I take issue with your characterization of ammonia's hazard profile. I hereby submit that your discussion in this regard is inaccurate and unhelpful.   

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Safety Assessments of Ammonia as a Transportation Fuel

New data from a number of ammonia energy safety studies will be published later this year. In the meantime, two excellent reports already exist that provide comparative, quantitative risk analyses. Each compares the risks of using ammonia as a fuel in passenger vehicles against the risks of other fuels, including gasoline, LPG, CNG, methanol, and hydrogen. Both conclude that the risks associated with using ammonia as a fuel are "similar, if not lower than for the other fuels."

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Importance of Public Perception towards an Ammonia Economy

During development of the technical aspects of any energy project, a social perspective needs to be considered. Public opinion is going to be a fundamental parameter to determine the role of renewables in the future, with decarbonisation meaning innovation towards a comprehensive plan that involves not only technology but also psychology and how these two can benefit from each other.

Due to the importance of understanding public perception of ammonia, Cardiff University conducted a study focused on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, which currently presents high revenues in agriculture and depends on ammonia as a fertiliser. An analysis of stakeholder’s perception of ammonia was carried out to understand the different barriers and drivers of each established group.

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NH3 Safety

The relative safety of NH3 (ammonia) is one of the most debated topics surrounding the adoption of NH3 fuel. Inaccurate and misleading information has been widely circulated on the topic. A thorough examination of the facts will show that the use of NH3 in energy applications will not only meet the most stringent safety standards currently in place worldwide, but that NH3 will be safer to use than many leading transportation fuels.

Two highly credible risk assessments analyze the safety of NH3 vs gasoline and other fuels, and both of them conclude that NH3 would be as safe as, or safer than, gasoline, methanol, LPG (propane), CNG (compressed natural gas), or hydrogen.

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U.S. EPA’s Toxicological Review of Ammonia

On September 20 last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the release of the IRIS Toxicological Review of Ammonia - Noncancer Inhalation (Final Report). The Interagency Science Discussion Draft of the Ammonia IRIS Assessment and accompanying comments were also released. The report was the culmination of almost five years of work by the EPA and a specially convened Scientific Advisory Board. September 20 also happened to be the day of the Storage and Safety Session at the 2016 NH3 Fuel Conference. This is a striking coincidence because safety is seen as a key barrier to the adoption of ammonia as a sustainable energy carrier, and the report is a substantial contribution to the literature of ammonia safety.

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