Ammonia Safety: The Future Of Maritime Fuel

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  • Ammonia’s potential as a zero-carbon maritime fuel was a highlight of the Singapore Maritime Week.
  • However, safety concerns, both for the crew and the environment, still need to be addressed.
  • With ongoing trials and discussions, the industry is actively working on safety measures, aiming to integrate ammonia into the future fuel mix while ensuring safety.

Addressing Safety Concerns

Ammonia emerged as a serious, perhaps even dominant, part of the future fuel mix during the Singapore Maritime Week. However, it is evident that safety concerns for both the crew and the wider environment, in the event of an accident with such a highly toxic fuel, have not been fully resolved yet.

Recent trials in Singapore involved the converted offshore vessel, Fortescue Green Pioneer, which was moored at Keppel Bay, giving visiting officials and executives an opportunity to see firsthand a vessel retrofitted with an ammonia engine and fuel systems.

Collaborative Safety Efforts

Arsenio Dominguez, the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), visited and took part in a safety drill to see how long it takes to put on the PPE. Dominguez said it took him 2 minutes and 23 seconds, slightly longer than the 2 minutes it should take with no experience or practice. “So, it’s doable,” he commented.

However, he also admitted there are concerns and said that the IMO is working on these through the Maritime Just Transition Task Force with the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), and the International Labour Organization (ILO), and a number of countries, including Singapore, were carrying out tests.

Technical Developments and Safety Operation Guidelines

Japanese shipbuilding and engineering company IHI has already delivered its first ammonia engine for an ammonia-powered tugboat, a project backed by the country’s government. Speaking at the SMW conference Hiroki Kobayashi, CEO of IHI Asia – Pacific, said they were working towards an ammonia end-to-end supply chain, which was technically speaking “almost there”.

Safety Standards and Regulations

In terms of safety of design, pipes are double-walled, ammonia resistant material is used, sensor and alarm systems. The company sees it as a combination of technical developments and safety operation guidelines.

MAN Energy Solutions is also developing an ammonia engine and will deliver its first unit through licensee Mitsui E&S in Japan. Nicholas Brabeck, Managing Director MAN Energy Solutions in Singapore said it was hoped the engine would be installed in a vessel this year and be on the ocean in 2025.

Of the different alternative fuels under development, the company sees good potential for ammonia in terms of cost of production, onboard storage, and cost of production, but with the issue of its toxicity.

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Source: Seatrade-Maritime