Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Shipping Industry Could Replace Diesel Fuel With Ammonia to Reduce Emissions

Energy
Shipping Industry Could Replace Diesel Fuel With Ammonia to Reduce Emissions
Large storage tank of Ammonia at a fertilizer plant in Cubatão, Sao Paulo State, Brazil. Luis Veiga / The Image Bank / Getty Images

The shipping industry is coming to grips with its egregious carbon footprint, as it has an outsized contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and to the dumping of chemicals into open seas. Already, the global shipping industry contributes about 2 percent of global carbon emissions, about the same as Germany, as the BBC reported.


In its efforts to clean up its act, the industry is looking to stop burning diesel and is exploring using ammonia as its fuel source. When ammonia burns, it does not create carbon dioxide emissions, as the BBC reported.

Recently, the European Union awarded just over $11 million to the ShipFC project, which is composed of 14 firms looking to make maritime shipping a bit greener. The money will be used to outfit a shipping vessel used by Norwegian energy company Equinor that has been running on diesel for 17 years with ammonia fuel cells, as CNBC reported.

"Together with Equinor, we are now launching a full-scale research project to test a propulsion solution based on fuel cells running on pure and emission-free ammonia," Jan Fredrik Meling, who is the CEO of Eidesvik Offshore, which made the ship, said according to CNBC.

"The goal is to install fuel cell modules with a total power of 2 MW (megawatts) on board Viking Energy in 2024," he added. "This will make the vessel the world's first emission-free supply vessel."

One of the hang-ups right now is that making ammonia is actually a huge source of carbon emissions, according to a report from the Royal Society. Ammonia production actually accounts for 1.8 percent of global CO2 emissions, which is by far the most of any chemical, as the BBC reported.

While producing ammonia is carbon-intensive, scientists believe that a cleaner, carbon-free way to produce ammonia will happen soon, either by trapping CO2 and burying it or by creating 'green' ammonia, according to the Royal Society report.

"We see a very big interest from the market in ammonia as a fuel – even though there are challenges," Peter Kirkeby, a spokesman for Man Energy Solutions, which is making ammonia powered engines, said to the BBC. "We expect the first ships fuelled with ammonia will be existing tankers that are already transporting ammonia for fertilizer. They know how to handle it."

Some of the largest names in shipping are getting behind the effort to use the fertilizer by-product as an alternative to shipping fuel. Recently, Korean Register, which verifies and certifies ships worldwide, touted ammonia as a viable clean energy since it does not require a large amount of technical expertise to use as fuel.

"The strength of ammonia is that it is relatively easy to store due to the rational energy, density and liquefaction temperature compared to hydrogen, the production and transport costs are lower compared to other carbon-neutral fuels, and has the technology for stable production and transport," a Korean Register technical report said, as Seatrade Maritime News reported.

However, there are still caveats. For example, ammonia does not burn as efficiently as diesel. It also creates nitrogen oxides, which are greenhouse gasses. However, the Royal Society report is optimistic that technology will address those problems, according to the BBC.

"Ammonia is the only zero-carbon fuel that will get you across the oceans," said the Royal Society's lead author, Bill David, as the BBC reported. And yet, he added, "In terms of emissions from industrial processes, ammonia comes only after cement and steel, so we need to decarbonize the production of ammonia."

Plastic bails, left, and aluminum bails, right, are photographed at the Green Waste material recovery facility on Thursday, March 28, 2019, in San Jose, California. Aric Crabb / Digital First Media / Bay Area News via Getty Images

By Courtney Lindwall

Coined in the 1970s, the classic Earth Day mantra "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" has encouraged consumers to take stock of the materials they buy, use, and often quickly pitch — all in the name of curbing pollution and saving the earth's resources. Most of us listened, or lord knows we tried. We've carried totes and refused straws and dutifully rinsed yogurt cartons before placing them in the appropriately marked bins. And yet, nearly half a century later, the United States still produces more than 35 million tons of plastic annually, and sends more and more of it into our oceans, lakes, soils, and bodies.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Rise and Resist activist group marched together to demand climate and racial justice. Steve Sanchez / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Alexandria Villaseñor

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

My journey to becoming an activist began in late 2018. During a trip to California to visit family, the Camp Fire broke out. At the time, it was the most devastating and destructive wildfire in California history. Thousands of acres and structures burned, and many lives were lost. Since then, California's wildfires have accelerated: This past year, we saw the first-ever "gigafire," and by the end of 2020, more than four million acres had burned.

Read More Show Less
Trending
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a pair of climate-related secretarial orders on Friday, April 16. U.S. Department of the Interior

By Jessica Corbett

As the Biden administration reviews the U.S. government's federal fossil fuels program and faces pressure to block any new dirty energy development, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland won praise from environmentalists on Friday for issuing a pair of climate-related secretarial orders.

Read More Show Less
David Attenborough narrates "The Year Earth Changed," premiering globally April 16 on Apple TV+. Apple

Next week marks the second Earth Day of the coronavirus pandemic. While a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions has limited our ability to explore the natural world and gather with others for its defense, it is still possible to experience the wonder and inspiration from the safety of your home.

Read More Show Less

By Michael Svoboda

For April's bookshelf we take a cue from Earth Day and step back to look at the bigger picture. It wasn't climate change that motivated people to attend the teach-ins and protests that marked that first observance in 1970; it was pollution, the destruction of wild lands and habitats, and the consequent deaths of species.

Read More Show Less