Although recent reports have advocated use of ammonia as a fuel to drive shipping toward a decarbonised future, MAN Energy Solutions’ head of advanced engineering Alexander Knafl said the fuel’s viability was probably more than a decade away.
Speaking to Marine Propulsion ahead of the MAN Energy Solutions SMM 2018 forums on the subject of future fuels, Dr Knafl noted that, while multiple researchers have already shown ammonia to be a viable fuel for internal combustion engines in laboratory studies, there are still a litany of reasons why ammonia’s advent is firmly fixed to a distant horizon.
“Ammonia (NH3) is both caustic and considered extremely hazardous,” he said. “Utilising NH3 for maritime propulsion will require the development of new safety standards, installation of infrastructure and, most importantly, the availability of large quantities of renewable ammonia.”
“This is an unlikely scenario in the next 10 years,” Dr Knafl concluded.
“Utilising NH3 for maritime propulsion will require the development of new safety standards, installation of infrastructure and, most importantly, the availability of large quantities of renewable ammonia.”
And in order for ammonia to be a truly carbon-free fuel, Dr Knafl pointed out, it will have to be electro-chemically produced from renewable energy rather than from carbon-containing natural gas (methane) or liquefied petroleum gasses (LPG), the most common ammonia production methods in use today.
In the immediate term, Dr Knafl cited the relatively widespread availability of LNG as the driver for an increasing demand from MAN customers for dual-fuel engines.
Dual-fuel engines’ flexibility to run on liquid or gas fuels offers owners and operators insurance in areas where LNG distribution infrastructure is lacking, he said, and simultaneously works to create opportunities for expansion within the LNG bunkering sector.
MAN Energy Solutions’ Bjarne Foldager, who will be a speaker at MAN's 2018 SMM forums on the subject of future fuels talked to Marine Propulsion in July about IMO’s landmark greenhouse gas (GHG) agreement and where the business is placing its bets on 21st century technologies.
Demand for fuels that comply with 0.5% sulphur restrictions coming into effect in 2020 are bound to increase, according to Dr Knafl.
Heavy fuel oil (HFO) use in conjunction with scrubbers could potentially increase, depending on price differences between HFO and low-sulphur fuels, he said, but only for a short time due to industry commitments to achieve IMO’s forthcoming GHG reduction targets.
In the longer-term, Dr Knafl said decarbonisation efforts will have to go “hand-in-hand with alternative renewable fuels of all sorts of PtX streams”.
PtX is shorthand for power-to-energy conversion technologies, wherein the variable (X) can be substituted with a number of different fuel sources.
“PtX fuels being mostly very clean,” Dr Knafl said, “will allow for further optimisation of the engine working process, resulting in increased efficiency and lower emissions. From today’s perspective, there are a number of fuel candidates, both gaseous and liquid.”
MAN Energy solutions will be holding a series of seminars at SMM 2018 in Hamburg. Future fuels will be discussed along with decarbonisation, energy efficiency and the impacts of digitalisation.
Click here to see dates, times, speakers and to register your interest.
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