The maritime industry has been engaged in a frenzy of research since April 2018, when the International Maritime Organization (IMO) announced its Initial GHG Strategy mandating a 50% reduction in shipping's emissions by 2050.
Three recent announcements illustrate the speed and depth of progress across a range of maritime stakeholders. In the government sector, the UK has launched its Clean Maritime Plan, which identifies ammonia as one of its strategic "clean growth opportunities." In finance, a coalition of 11 banks representing a shipping portfolio of around $100 billion has launched the Poseidon Principles to "redefine the role of banks in the maritime shipping sector." And class society ABS launched its Global Sustainability Center in Singapore to analyse, certify, and validate alternative fuels and new technologies; its Director of Global Sustainability will speak at the inaugural conference of the Ammonia Energy Association--Australia, held in Clayton, VIC, on August 22-23. His subject will be "Green ammonia as marine bunker fuel."
This week, Lloyd's Register published the most significant comparative assessment so far of ammonia's potential as a zero-emission maritime fuel.
The new report compares ammonia, used in either internal combustion engines (ICE) or fuel cells, to other low-carbon technologies, including hydrogen, batteries, and biofuels, estimating costs for 2030. It concludes that, of all the sustainable, available options, ammonia "appears the most competitive."
In the last 12 months ... The maritime industry has begun assessing ammonia as a carbon-free fuel, for internal combustion engines and fuel cells. This marks the first time since the 1960s, when NASA used ammonia to fuel the X-15 rocket plane, that industry players have seriously considered ammonia for transport applications.
The shipping industry is beginning to evaluate ammonia as a potential "bunker fuel," a carbon-free alternative to the heavy fuel oil (HFO) used in maritime transport.
International trade associations are leading the effort to decarbonize the sector, in alignment with targets set by the Paris Climate Agreement. Their immediate challenge is simple to state but hard to solve: "ambitious CO2 reduction objectives will only be achievable with alternative marine fuels which do not yet exist." In the long-term, however researchers recognize that "fuel cell-powered ships are likely to dominate, drawing their energy from fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia."