Ammonia as Marine Fuel is Going Under the Safety Microscope

Maritime & Ports

Source: Handy Shipping guide, 2021-04-21

 When it was first proposed as a marine fuel the mention of ammonia certainly was a cause for raised eyebrows in many quarters. Here we are talking about a substance which is toxic in the extreme and which would require new technologies and new attitudes to ensure its success.

The ocean shipping sector however is meeting the challenge of decarbonisation head on and although ammonia as a fuel is being heavily debated as a suitable long-term solution for maritime use as the industry transitions towards a zero or low carbon value chain, green ammonia can be produced from renewable power by electrolysis of H2O, ultimately making it a zero-carbon fuel. 

The possibilities have ensured the attention of many of the major players in both the energy supply and shipping sectors and now Lloyd’s Register Maritime Decarbonisation Hub and the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Centre for Zero Carbon Shipping have formed a new project with A.P. Moller-Maersk, MAN Energy Solutions, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, NYK Line and Total to support shipping’s transition to zero-carbon.

The overarching purpose of the project is to understand and guide the safe use of ammonia as a fuel on board ships. Part of this will include developing a mature and detailed understanding of risk and safety concerns, which will be assessed through a Quantitative Risk Assessment methodology in phase one of the project. This will ultimately lead to the development of best practices for safeguards in design and arrangements when using ammonia as a shipping fuel.    

The project will also determine the risk of fatality from unintended releases of ammonia, as well as determine the risk contribution of key equipment and spaces dedicated to ammonia storage. To illustrate the potential for risk mitigation measures, the project partners will assess alternate vessel designs, optimised to be fuelled by ammonia. 

The Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Centre for Zero Carbon Shipping is a not-for-profit, independent research and development centre, which works across the shipping sector with industry, academia and authorities. The Centre will manage the project which is expected to run throughout 2021 and Claus Winter Graugaard, Head of Onboard Vessel Solutions, commented:

"In the eagerness to decarbonise the shipping sector, proper risk management is critical and safety must not become an afterthought. This project will provide matured understanding of safety risk enabling industry guidance towards future safeguard design and adequate operational guidelines. Enabling safe and adequate deployment of ammonia as marine fuel.”

As a regulatory body safety is of course at the heart of what Lloyds Register is all about, and commenting on the new project, Lloyd’s Register Decarbonisation Programme Manager, Charles Haskell was obviously keen to get to work in a completely new field, saying:

“Shipping needs collaboration if the industry is to successfully meet the IMO 2050 targets, and this collaboration between the LR Maritime Decarbonisation Hub and the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Centre for Zero Carbon Shipping is a significant milestone in this journey. We look forward to working with the project partners, who each represent different areas of the supply chain, in developing guidance, risk mitigation measures and best practice on using ammonia so that we can support the safe uptake of the fuel.”  


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