Japanese firms working on ammonia-fueled engines

By Jack Burke27 October 2021

Plan to have vessel in service before 2030

A group of Japanese companies is working on commercializing vessels equipped with domestically produced ammonia-fueled engines.

NYK Line, Japan Engine Corp., IHI Power Systems and Nihon Shipyard Co. said that Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) has approved their participation in a demonstration project as part of the country’s Green Innovation Fund project. The demonstration project, which is scheduled to begin in December with ClassNK, aims to use ammonia as fuel to significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions during voyages and thus introduce an ammonia-fueled vessel earlier than 2030. The companies will eventually work toward the goal of achieving zero emissions from ships in the future.

The companies and ClassNK’s hope to realize the development of an ammonia-fueled vessel that is internationally competitive ahead of other countries, and to lead the development of safety guidelines and laws and regulations related to ammonia-fueled vessels. In order to achieve these goals, marine engine manufacturers, shipyards, class societies, and shipping companies in Japan will work together to consistently cooperate from the research and development stage to engine development, shipbuilding, and commercialization.

With the entry into force of the Paris Agreement in 2016, the global momentum for decarbonization is increasing. The Japanese government has declared that it will reduce GHG emissions to zero as a whole by 2050 and aim for carbon neutrality, and the energy shift toward the realization of a carbon-free society is accelerating. Reducing GHG emissions is also an urgent issue in the shipping industry, and research and development is being conducted to convert marine fuel from conventional heavy fuel oil to liquefied natural gas (LNG) and to popularize next-generation zero-emission fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia. Ammonia does not emit carbon dioxide (CO2) even when burned, so it is expected to be a next-generation fuel that contributes to global warming countermeasures. Furthermore, it is said that by utilizing CO2-free hydrogen** for hydrogen, which is the raw material for ammonia, it is possible to achieve zero emissions in consideration of the fuel life cycle.

Under this background, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry started the Green Innovation Fund project toward carbon neutrality by 2050, and NEDO has now approved the companies’ development of vessels equipped with a domestically produced ammonia-fueled engine as part of the Green Innovation Fund project.

NEDO has approved these demonstration projects:

  • The development and operation of an ammonia-fueled tugboat;
  • The development and operation of an ammonia-fueled ammonia gas carrier, and the companies will carry them out.

The ammonia fuel will have a flame retardant bottleneck, which is difficult to ignite, so this project assumes that a small amount of fuel oil will be used as pilot fuel. Targeting the delivery of A-Tug in FY2024, the companies aim to reduce GHG emissions by achieving an ammonia fuel mixed combustion rate of 80% or higher.

The companies will confirm safe operation in demonstrations aimed to improve the mixed combustion rate with a view to achieving zero GHG emissions by using biofuel as a pilot fuel in the future.

Targeting the ship’s delivery in 2026, the companies will develop and operate an ammonia-fueled ammonia gas carrier (AFAGC) with the concept of transporting ammonia as cargo and using the cargo and ammonia gas vaporized from the cargo as fuel during the voyage.

The companies aim to reduce GHG emissions by achieving a maximum ammonia fuel mixed combustion rate of 95% for the main engine that moves the ship, and an ammonia fuel mixed combustion rate of 80% or more for the auxiliary engine that runs the generator.

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