Ammonia-powered Fortescue Green Pioneer in world’s first ammonia bunkering

Australia’s green energy firm Fortescue, with the support from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), government agencies, research institutes, and industry partners, has conducted what it says to be the world’s first use of ammonia as a marine fuel onboard ammonia-powered vessel.

MPA Singapore

As disclosed, Singapore-flagged vessel Fortescue Green Pioneer completed ammonia bunkering operation in the Port of Singapore. It was loaded with liquid ammonia, in combination with diesel in the combustion process, from the existing ammonia facility at Vopak Banyan Terminal on Jurong Island for the fuel trial.

The five cubic meters (three tonnes) of liquid ammonia used for the fuel trial was supplied by Vopak using its existing infrastructure at the 10,000 cbm Vopak Banyan Terminal.

The fuel trial was carried out over a period of seven weeks and included rigorous testing of the Fortescue Green Pioneer’s ammonia storage systems, associated piping, gas fuel delivery system, retrofitted engines, and seaworthiness.

The tests took place in phases to ensure safe port operations and safety for crew members and engineers who have completed a series of rigorous training sessions since October 2023.

As part of the risk management, extensive pre-operations, safety checks and tests were conducted.

Following the success of the land-based testing, conversion work commenced on the vessel at Seatrium’s Benoi yard from July 2023. This included the installation of the gas fuel delivery system, safety systems and infrastructure, and the successful conversion of two of the vessel’s four engines to enable the use of ammonia, combined with diesel in the combustion process, to power the vessel. 

The two four-stroke retrofitted engines served as proxy for the commercialization of ammonia-fuelled marine engines under development globally.

According to MPA, the post-combustion nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels met the local air quality standard, while efforts to reduce the pilot fuel for combustion ignition and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions post-combustion will continue as more ammonia-fuelled marine engines and ammonia sources with lower greenhouse gas emissions become available.

The two remaining engines onboard the Fortescue Green Pioneer will operate on conventional fuels when required.

In completing the fuel trial, Fortescue Green Pioneer has received flag approval from the Singapore Registry of Ships (SRS) and the “Gas Fuelled Ammonia” notation by classification society DNV to use ammonia, in combination with diesel, as a marine fuel.

A second tranche of three tonnes of liquid ammonia will be loaded for the Fortescue Green Pioneer to conduct further tests and trials over the next few weeks.

“The safe conduct of this fuel trial supports the holistic assessment of the use of ammonia as a marine fuel, and the development of standards and safety procedures. This will inform the crew training, emergency and bunkering procedures which MPA, agencies and the tripartite community are developing in support of making available safe and cost-efficient solutions as MaritimeSG and the international shipping community undergo the energy transition.,” Teo Eng Dih, Chief Executive, MPA said.

“Australia and Singapore are nations for whom the seas are our lifeblood and Fortescue has seen firsthand the willingness of Singapore to lead the world in taking brave, innovative action to build green ammonia shipping. My message to the Singaporean Government is only green is green. Anything else is made from fossil fuels,” Andrew Forrest AO, Chairman of Fortescue, said.

Globally, ammonia is used in agriculture and industry. It is manufactured as a chemical by combining nitrogen from the air with hydrogen. As a carrier for hydrogen, ammonia can be transported to demand centers for power generation and as a marine fuel in support of the energy transition. Several dual-fuelled ammonia vessels have been ordered by shipowners.     

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Over the course of the past year, the maritime industry has witnessed a remarkable surge in projects centered around ammonia as a sustainable ship fuel. Despite facing high costs and safety issues, clean ammonia’s role as a prospective marine bunker fuel, a hydrogen carrier for use in power generation, and industry feedstock has solidified its place in the green transition, especially for high-volume uses.

 According to the UK-based research and consultancy firm Maritime Strategies International (MSI, the next 25 years are likely to see ammonia trade transformed with clean ammonia providing new demand for close to 400 very large gas carriers, compared to a current fleet of 375 focused on carrying liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

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