Three factors to consider in case of using ammonia as a marine fuel

ABS three factors of ammonia’s use as a marine fuel:

  1. Ammonia offers ship owners and operators a zero-carbon tank-to-wake emissions profile, regardless of fuel source.
  2. Ammonia’s toxicity requires stringent handling measures and permissible exposure limits to be followed.
  3. Although there are currently no prescriptive requirements surrounding ammonia as a marine fuel, demonstrating a vessel’s capability to operate on ammonia is advantageous.

According to the guide, ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen and at atmospheric pressure and normal temperatures is a colorless gas with a characteristic pungent smell. At higher pressures ammonia becomes a liquid, making it easier to transport and store. The typical heating value for ammonia is similar to methanol. As with most alternative fuels, it has a lower energy density than fuel oils, so producing the same energy content would require about 2.4 times more volume as compared to petroleum-based fuels.

The fuel must be placed in specific storages and specific refrigerated conditions. Thus, the requirements of ammonia gas includ low-temperature service, pressurized storage tanks, flammable gases, and working with corrosive and toxic materials is key to addressing the safety hazards of using ammonia as a marine fuel. Some of the considerations when using ammonia as fuel on a vessel are listed below:

  • Corrosion
  • Design
  • Equipment failure
  • Cascading failures
  • Safety management plan
  • Personnel training to reduce human error.

In addition, ABS presents the pros and cons of using ammonia. Accordingly:

Pros Cons
Carbon free – no CO2 or soot Toxicity
Low flammability risk – 15.15% to 27.35% in air Fuel infrastructure
Can be produced from electrical energy – renewable Lack of regulations
Easily reformed to hydrogen and nitrogen Engine development at design stage
Can be stored and transported as a liquid at a practical pressure and temperature Cost
Established commercial product Corrosiveness to certain materials
Poor combustion characteristics for IC engine
Possible need for high percentage of pilot fuel
Possible increased NOx emission
Possible ammonia slip

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