As the marine industry works to find the ‘fuel of the future’ to address increasingly stringent emission regulations, an interesting development from a trio of marine powers in Japan seeks to develop the world’s first ammonia-fueled tugboat. The joint research and development agreement was signed by NYK, IHI Power Systems Co., Ltd., and ClassNK recently to put the world’s first ammonia-fueled tugboat into practical use.
With the entry into force of the Paris Agreement in 2016, global momentum for decarbonization has increased, and reducing GHG emissions has become an issue in the shipping sector. In 2018, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) set a goal of halving GHG emissions from the international shipping sector by 2050 and reaching a target of zero as early as the end of this century.
Since carbon dioxide (CO2) is not emitted when ammonia is burned, it is viewed to have promise as a next-generation fuel that could mitigate shipping’s impact on global warming. In addition, it is said that zero emissions can be realized by utilizing CO2-free hydrogen as a raw material for ammonia. Thus, the companies have decided to start this joint R&D for an ammonia-fueled tugboat. In fact, the companies worked together to jointly develop the LNG-fueled tugboat Sakigake, which was built in 2015 as Japan’s first ship fueled by liquefied natural gas (LNG). In this new JV R&D project, the trio will utilize the knowledge cultivated in the development, construction, and operation of Sakigake.
To start, in fiscal 2020 the companies will tackle themes such as technological development of the hull, engine, and fuel supply system, and development of safety navigation methods. After evaluating the practicality of the R&D results, the JV will begin study of the construction of the ammonia-fueled tugboat and the plan for construction.
For the JV, NYK Line will focus on research and design of hull and fuel supply system; IHI Power Systems will address research and design of engine and exhaust gas aftertreatment devices; and ClassNK will focus on safety assessment of ammonia-fueled tugboat
The LNG-fueled tugboat Sakigake
The LNG-fueled tugboat Sakigake is owned by NYK Line and operated in Yokohama port and Kawasaki port under the navigation of Shin-Nippon Kaiyosha. Japan’s first LNG-fueled tugboat, Sakigake was built at Keihin Dock Co. Ltd. and is equipped with a dual-fuel engine that can use either LNG or diesel oil, depending on conditions. The tugboat’s engine was constructed by IHI Power Systems Co., Ltd. (Niigata Power Systems Co., Ltd. at the time of construction). When using LNG fuel, Sakigake becomes an eco-friendly tugboat compared to when using heavy oil because sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions are reduced by approximately 100%, nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by approximately 80%, and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by approximately 30%.
Image Courtesy NYK, IHI Power Systems, ClassNK