In our previous blog posts we have already written about different alternatives being developed in the decarbonisation path of the boating industry. Today, we are exploring a promising candidate emerging on the horizon, being ammonia, a compound commonly used in fertilizers, but increasingly gaining attention as a potential marine fuel. In the text below discover its benefits, use and more.
An unexpected player
Ammonia has often been associated with cleaning products and fertilizers, making it not the first choice for boat fuel. However, several qualities make it a promising candidate for the boating industry's transition to cleaner energy:
1. LOW EMISSIONS: When burned, ammonia releases only water vapor and nitrogen, resulting in zero carbon emissions. This characteristic makes it a potential game-changer in the race to reduce the industry's carbon footprint. However, its combustion may produce both nitrogen oxide and nitrous oxide as a by-product. The greenhouse gas effects of nitrous oxide are more potent than carbon dioxide.
2. HIGH ENERGY DENSITY: Ammonia has a high energy density, which means it can store a significant amount of energy in a relatively small volume. This is crucial for longer voyages and commercial applications.
3. INFRASTRUCTURE: Ammonia production and transportation infrastructure is already well-established due to its use in the agricultural sector. This means that adapting existing facilities for ammonia production and distribution for marine fuel could be more feasible than creating an entirely new supply chain.
Challenges to overcome
The road of research and development is long, thus several issues arise in the production and adoption of this fuel. These may be the following:
1. SAFETY CONCERNS: Ammonia is toxic and flammable, requiring stringent safety measures during storage, transportation and handling. Developing and implementing robust safety protocols is required. Any onboard leak presents a major emergency, due to ammonia's toxicity for both marine life and humans.
2. STORAGE: While existing infrastructure is a boon, modifications are needed to accommodate ammonia's specific requirements. Specialized storage tanks and equipment are necessary to handle ammonia safely.
3. ENERGY EFFICIENCY: Converting ammonia into usable energy for propulsion involves an energy-intensive process. Finding efficient ways to harness this energy while minimizing losses is a technical challenge.
4. CARBON FREE PRODUCTION: The current production of ammonia involves emitting carbon dioxide. To achieve a truly sustainable solution, researchers must explore methods for carbon-free or low-carbon ammonia production.
While challenges remain, the potential of ammonia as a clean marine fuel cannot be ignored. As the world works towards stricter emissions regulations and a greener future, ammonia's unique combination of attributes makes it a valuable piece of the puzzle in the transition to more sustainable maritime operations.
The ongoing research and investment in ammonia as a marine fuel signals a promising direction for the boating industry in its quest for sustainability. With continued collaboration and innovation, involvement of both regulatory bodies and academia, ammonia might present itself as one of the top sustainable solutions.