Ammonia Powered Shipping: The future of marine fuelling?

March 14, 2021

2 min read

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What's going on here?

The Ammonia-fuelled tanker Joint Development Project (JDP) has welcomed two new partners; the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the chemicals company Yara International ASA (Yara). This has been done to work towards their initiative of decarbonising the maritime industry.

What does this mean?

The JDP is a project of various partners which have formed a coalition working towards the Castor Initiative. At the core of this initiative, MISC Berhad, Lloyd’s Register, Samsung Heavy Industries and MAN Energy Solutions are now working alongside the MPA and Yara, with the primary goal of fuelling ships through ammonia

Each of these companies have been recognised by MISC’s President and Group CEO Yee Yang Chien as the “global leaders in their respective areas of authority and expertise.” Whether from a manufacturing, chemical or construction engineering perspective, each company brings a distinct purpose in the efforts to release the world’s first ammonia fuelled tanker into the maritime domain by 2025

What's the big picture effect?

The central motivation for these maritime stakeholders working towards the global commercialisation of ammonia-fuelled ships is the active pursuit of fulfilling the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) 2050 Sustainable Development goals. The IMO’s current strategy is to achieve “a pathway of CO2 emissions reduction consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goals.” Namely, to reduce the annual rate of greenhouse gas emissions which were produced in 2008 by approximately 50% by 2050. 

Where the International Council on Clean Transportation reported that between 2007 to 2012 ships alone were observed to have emitted “approximately 1 billion tonnes” of greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide, and are “responsible for roughly 3%” of global emissions generally, such statistics emphasise the motive for the JDP prioritising this decarbonisation initiative. This is further reinforced where Yara explicitly recognised “the need for value chain collaboration to make zero emission shipping by using ammonia as a fuel a reality,” and not just a future ideal or aspiration. 

Notably, in 2020 the manager for low-carbon technologies at Equinor Hege Rognø warned that the key barrier to securing carbon-free ammonia-powered ships was not only the expense of green fuels. Rather, in order “for fuel producers to scale up production, a market needs to exist, but a market will not appear before the fuel is available.” Interestingly, where the Castor Initiative combines multinational companies specialising in different sub-sectors of the marine industry, the JDP’s attention to establishing a collaborative approach could prove useful in overcoming these marketplace challenges. Arguably, by the JDP forging their own pathway into decarbonised shipping technology in accordance with the IMO’s objectives, they have already established the core foundations required for the commercialisation of ammonia-fuelled shipping.

Overall, whilst this collaboration signifies a significant step forward in the use of alternative fuels to reduce carbon emissions across the maritime domain, all hands on deck will be required to sustain such momentum. One can only hope that the environmental rewards of this unified effort are reaped sooner rather than later. 

Report written by Karolina Smolicz

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