Maersk outlines the benefits of using ammonia for its fleet and how it is solving challenges
AP Moller-Maersk believes ammonia is a “very promising” fuel option for its fleet alongside the use of methanol.
AP Moller-Maersk (Maersk) senior innovation project manager Berit Hinnemann tells CST, “Alongside methanol, we do see ammonia as a very promising fuel option for our fleet, especially green ammonia as that has great potential for production on a large scale. There are safety and technical challenges we need to solve, but we also believe we are able to do so.”
In March, Maersk signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a coalition to study the feasibility of developing a green ammonia supply chain in the Port of Singapore.
Joining Maersk in the effort are: Fleet Management Limited, Keppel Offshore & Marine, Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping, Sumitomo Corporation and Yara International. Under the MoU, the coalition will jointly conduct a feasibility study with the goal of establishing a comprehensive and competitive supply chain for the provision of green ammonia ship-to-ship bunkering at the Port of Singapore, the largest bunkering port in the world.
Scale and availability
A huge attraction of using ammonia is its availability on a large scale. Ms Hinnemann says “We are using about 10M tonnes of fuel oil each year, so any future fuels need to be available on a large scale. In ammonia, we see it can potentially be available on a large scale because it can be produced from renewable electricity and water, and production can be scaled up.”
Homing in on the box ship sector of the fleet, she says availability is especially important. “One of the main benefits is the availability and scale, as we have 700 container ships alone and if we look at the sheer scale as to what would be required to replace fuel oil, then ammonia has some interesting perspectives.”
She singles out another benefit being that it is a “truly” zero-carbon fuel. “It doesn’t contain carbon itself, is produced without CO2 emissions upstream, so it is a truly zero-carbon fuel,” says Ms Hinnemann.
But she explains it is “important to emphasise we need to solve some technical and safety challenges before we can use ammonia in operations.”
There are several challenges, one being that there is no 2-stroke engine available for ammonia yet, although MAN is developing an engine that will be available in 2024. Ms Hinnemann comments that the engine is “crucial” to the development of ammonia, adding, “We are in very close dialogue with MAN on that and there are some technical details that will depend on the engine. We will have to see exactly what it means and how to develop our fleet.”
Other challenges include safety issues surrounding ammonia. “Ammonia is a toxic gas, and we need to handle it safely on the vessel and during bunkering. These are developments that still need to be made and challenges to solve before it is put into operation.”
Ms Hinnemann highlights the importance of industry collaboration to combat the safety and technical challenges of using ammonia as fuel.
“On a general level, collaboration across the industry and across the value chain is very important. Production, scale, safety and infrastructure challenges are across the industry and require the industry to collaborate.”
In terms of industry collaboration, Ms Hinnemann says “We are working very closely with the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Center for zero carbon shipping, whose mission is to bring together and solve industrywide challenges; they are project partners in ammonia bunkering.”
The Singapore project is an example of industry collaboration, with Ms Hinnemann saying, “If we take the Singapore project, this involves several ammonia producers and a lot of experience with ammonia from the industry - the ammonia industry produces 180M tonnes per year and 20M tonnes of this is shipped as cargo, so there is a lot of industry experience available we need to utilise. That’s why the industry needs to come together to find safe procedures.”
As well as the Singapore MoU, Maersk is involved in Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners’ (CIP) plans to establish Europe’s largest production facility of green ammonia. The Power-to-X facility located in Esbjerg on the Danish west coast will convert power from wind turbines to green ammonia.
Maersk, along with Danish companies Arla, Danish Crown, DLG and DFDS has signed an MoU committing to work towards realising the establishment of the facility and supporting the off-take of the green ammonia from the facility once it is ready to be delivered to the market.
Ms Hinnemann comments “This project is addressing the challenge of upscaling the production. Huge amounts will be needed, so the project is very important in developing the supply chain.”
There are several options for the use of green ammonia, including pairing with ultra-low sulphur fuel oil and deploying it on both newbuilds and retrofitting current vessels.
Ms Hinnemann says “We are looking at both options and outfitting a newbuild for dual-fuel operation on ammonia and very-low sulphur fuel oil comes at a lower add-in cost than retrofitting a vessel. For a retrofit you may have some constraints to consider.”
But nevertheless, she says that depended on specific vessels, therefore Maersk is investigating both options and she “thinks it will be a question of what comes out favourably in terms of cost and how we can best transition our fleet”.
Dual-fuel ammonia with ultra-low sulphur fuel oil is advantageous as it gives flexibility in terms of operations, Ms Hinnemann points out.
Finally, she emphasises that optionality is important. “The way we are approaching this, is not only do we believe that ammonia is very promising, but we are also pursuing methanol and we believe in optionality. It is very important to develop several solutions so that we have optionality along the lines.”
Snapshot CV: Berit Hinnemann (AP Moller-Maersk)
Berit Hinnemann is senior innovation project manager at AP Moller-Maersk. She works with decarbonisation, especially the development and supply of carbon-neutral marine fuels such as green methanol and green ammonia. Prior to joining Maersk in April 2020, Ms Hinnemann worked for 13 years at Haldor Topsoe in roles within R&D, business development, technology scouting and corporate strategy and before that, she was a research scientist in materials science at Princeton University.
Ms Hinnemann holds an MSc in Physics from the University of Duisburg-Essen and a PhD in Physics from the Technical University of Denmark, with a focus on catalysis and ammonia synthesis.