Joint R&D starts for practical application of ammonia-fuelled tugboat

Source: press release, 3 September 2020

Ammonia-fuelled tugboat: Zero emissions can be realised by utilising CO2-free hydrogen as a raw material for ammonia
Ammonia-fuelled tugboat: Zero emissions can be realised by utilising CO2-free hydrogen as a raw material for ammonia (illustrations: NYK Line/ClassNK)

NYK, IHI Power Systems Co., Ltd., and Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (ClassNK) signed a joint research and development agreement to put the world’s first ammonia-fuelled tugboat into practical use.

With the entry into force of the Paris Agreement in 2016, global momentum for decarbonisation has increased, and reducing GHG emissions has become an issue in the shipping sector. In 2018, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) set a goal of halving GHG emissions from the international shipping sector by 2050 and reaching a target of zero as early as the end of this century. Since carbon dioxide (CO2) is not emitted when ammonia is burned, it is viewed to have promise as a next-generation fuel that could mitigate shipping’s impact on global warming.

In addition, it is said that zero emissions can be realised by utilising CO2-free hydrogen as a raw material for ammonia. Thus, the companies have decided to start this joint R&D for an ammonia-fuelled tugboat. In fact, the companies worked together to jointly develop the LNG-fuelled tugboat Sakigake, which was built in 2015 as Japan’s first ship fuelled by liquefied natural gas (LNG). In this new joint R&D project, the members will utilise the knowledge cultivated in the development, construction and operation of Sakigake.

The companies will proceed with R&D from both technical and operational aspects for the introduction of ammonia as a marine fuel for tugboats.

Specifically, in fiscal 2020 the companies will tackle themes such as technological development of the hull, engine, and fuel supply system, and development of safety navigation methods. After evaluating the practicality of the R&D results, we will begin study of the construction of the ammonia-fuelled tugboat and the plan for construction.

The initiatives of each company regarding this joint R&D are as follows:

  • NYK Line: Research and design of hull and fuel supply system. Verification of operation method based on experience of Sakigake.
  • IHI Power Systems Co., Ltd.: Research and design of engine and exhaust gas aftertreatment devices.
  • Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (ClassNK): Safety assessment of ammonia-fuelled tugboat.

The introduction of ammonia as a marine fuel is highly expected to be a practical solution for decarbonisation in the shipping sector. This joint R&D envisions the implementation of ammonia marine fuel in tugboats that require high output, and will firmly establish the technical and operational requirements for that purpose. If it is possible to commercialise marine equipment that uses ammonia, which is one of the candidates for a next-generation fuel, and establish a method for operating the vessel, it is expected that the Japanese maritime industry will make a significant contribution to decarbonisation of the international shipping sector.

CO2-free hydrogen
One way of producing hydrogen without generating CO2 is through the use of renewable energy. A second way is by using natural gas or coal together with carbon capture and storage. CO2-free ammonia synthesis is technology for synthesising ammonia using such CO2-free hydrogen.