Lloyd’s Register Americas president Kevin Humphreys discusses the challenges and benefits of using ammonia as fuel, and why it might not be the right choice for everyone
Ammonia is gaining traction among shipowners as a zero-carbon fuel, despite concerns about availability, toxicity and engine technology. Undeterred, Exmar became the latest to make a commitment to ammonia, saying in July it was partnering with Canadian fertiliser giant Nutrien to build a gas carrier powered by the zero-carbon fuel for commissioning by 2025.
“Ammonia – we know it can be burned and we know the engine manufacturers have shown that it can be used as a fuel, but there are safety and supply chain concerns in using it,” Lloyd’s Register (LR) Americas president Kevin Humphreys tells Marine Propulsion.
Those are exactly the challenges being tackled by Lloyd’s Register’s Maritime Decarbonisation Hub and Maersk Mc-kinney Møller Centre for Zero Carbon Shipping in a project announced in April. Others involved in the collaborative effort are AP Moller-Maersk, MAN Energy Solutions, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, NYK Line and TotalEnergies.
Mr Humphreys calls Lloyd’s Register’s Maritime Decarbonisation Hub the organisation’s “internal think tank for testing new ideas, early technology demonstrations and collaboration with industry.” He says when it comes to shipping’s decarbonisation, “there are a number of potential solutions. Our role is to guide you through the technical and safety risks.”
LR is taking part in a multi-national, cross-industry collaboration called the Castor Initiative to develop an ammonia-fuelled tanker. This sees LR once again teaming with MAN Energy Solutions, along with MISC, Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI), Yara and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, with each partner bringing a certain area of expertise to the effort.
Over the last three years, LR has given the green light to three ammonia-fuelled designs for 23,000-TEU ultra-large container ships to Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and MAN Energy Solutions, a tanker to SHI, and Exmar’s 40,000-m3 midsize gas carrier. The ship design was supplied by China’s Jiangnan Shipyard and the ammonia gas supply system by Wärtsilä.
With more than 30 years of commercial and operational maritime experience, Mr Humphreys knows well that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. He joined Lloyd’s Register Americas in July from Wärtsilä where he served as general manager for market innovation and global merchant shipping sales.
“There won’t be one solution for all ship types, given the multitude of variables such as speed, route and fuel availability”. Mr Humphreys cites his experience working with bulk vessel operators, which can sail to between 800 to 1,100 ports annually. “When you are looking at the availability of alternative fuels,” observes Mr Humphreys, “that makes for a tough logistics challenge for an operator. How does he or she get there?”
Possible decarbonising solutions for bulk carrier operators might be to use ship-based carbon capture – when available – or scrubbing technologies, he says.
“There’s quite a bit to talk about future fuels and logistics, but if you could take care of a big chunk of carbon at the stack while we’re transitioning to new alternative fuels that may be a very viable pathway forward, but this still requires a new supply chain for the removal of the captured CO2.”
In the case of cruise ships positioned in ports in south Florida, LNG as a fuel makes sense in the short term, he notes, as supply is readily available.
“The answers are going to be different for each shipowner, and they’re going to be layered depending upon market niche, the fuel supply logistics and the transition pathway the shipowner plans to make,” he says.
When it comes time for shipowners to select their path for decarbonisation, Mr Humphreys says Lloyd’s Register will be there to help them navigate all of the safety and technical risks.
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