3D rendering of the Ammonia fuelled MGC, provided by Hyundai Mipo Dockyard

Industry firsts: HD Korea Shipbuilding to fit Exmar’s LPG carriers with ammonia-powered engines

South Korean shipbuilding major HD Korea Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering will install ammonia dual-fuel engines in two 46,000-cubic-meter medium-sized LPG carriers that are being built for Belgian shipping company Exmar.

3D rendering of the ammonia-fuelled MGC, provided by Hyundai Mipo Dockyard

The vessels, measuring 190 meters in length, 30.4 meters in width, and 18.8 meters in height, will be built at the Hyundai Mipo Dockyard in Ulsan and delivered sequentially to Exmar by May 2026.

The duo is designed to transport both LPG and ammonia.

KSOE celebrated this momentous achievement, proudly claiming the title of being the world’s first shipyard to construct ammonia-powered vessels.

Swiss marine power company WinGD confirmed that it will deliver its ammonia-fuelled X-DF-A engines to the two newbuildings to be built for Exmar LPG BV, a joint venture of Exmar and Seapeak.

The two 52-bore X52DF-A engines will be delivered in Q2 2025 and will be among the first of WinGD’s ammonia-fuelled engines to enter service. The engines achieved the first class approval for ammonia two-stroke engines from LR in September 2023.  

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“Ammonia is set to become a mainstream sustainable marine fuel and energy carrier by mid-century, and we are delighted to be working with Exmar to ensure that the vessels carrying the cargo will be among the first to use it,” WinGD Director of Sales, Volkmar Galke, said.

“Thanks to close cooperation with the owner, shipyard, engine builder Hyundai Heavy Industries and other stakeholders, WinGD’s X52DF-A will be available soon – not just for ammonia carriers but also for a range of other vessel types that can benefit from ammonia as a fuel.”

WinGD added that the X-DF-A range will feature high-pressure ammonia injection supplemented by a low targeted dose of pilot fuel, around 5%. Its performance and fuel efficiency will be similar to that of WinGD’s equivalent sized diesel-fuelled X-Engines, in both ammonia and diesel mode.

No after-treatment for N2O emissions is foreseen, with selective catalytic reduction assuring Tier III NOx compliance on either fuel.

“As a global leader in maritime ammonia and LPG transportation we have a long history of innovative ship designs and floating infrastructure platforms,” Exmar’s Deputy Director Shipping, Carl-Antoine Saverys said.

“With four decades of experience in handling ammonia cargoes we are confident in our ability to safely and effectively use this innovative zero-carbon shipping fuel. This journey continues to shape the maritime industry, and we’re pleased with the strong collaboration with WinGD and the other partners to drive sustainability forward.” 

According to Saverys, the LPG carriers will slash their operational carbon footprint by 90%, exceeding IMO’s emissions reduction targets. Exmar has a strong tradition of innovation with marine fuels having secured an AIP for LPG as fuel in 2012, which materialised in 2021 with the delivery of two VLGCs.

Now, navigating the difficult regulatory landscape surrounding the IGC Code for use of ammonia as fuel Exmar is acting as a first mover in the adoption of alternative fuelled vessels for the global gas supply chain

The shipping department of Exmar currently owns/operates 17 midsize gas carriers, three very large gas carriers, and 10 pressurized vessels.

The order is a joint development project between Exmar LPG, Wärtsilä, WinGD, Lloyd’s Register and Hyundai Mipo Dockyard.

HD HMD in collaboration with Wärtsilä, Win GD, and LR has been able to overcome the challenges for the safe design of this ammonia fuel LPG/NH3 carrier considering all the safety and toxic aspects associated with the fuel, and maintaining an inherent safe design in comparison with the use of methane as fuel.

Nick Brown, CEO, Lloyd’s Register, said: “Lloyd’s Register is pleased to sign this joint venture with EXMAR, HD HMD, Wärtsilä and WinGD for two mid-size dual-fuel LPG/NH3 gas carriers. It is crucial that the maritime sector continues to provide support for future fuel and technology projects with first movers and flag states in a challenging regulatory environment, ensuring our industry can continue safely and rapidly along the pathway of decarbonization.”

Adopting ammonia-based propulsion aligns with stringent International Maritime Organization (IMO) environmental regulations, which mandate a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and a complete carbon dioxide emissions reduction by 2050.

Ammonia emits zero carbon dioxide when burned and is emerging as a leading fuel option for the decarbonization of the maritime industry in the long term. However, the adoption of ammonia hinges on the development of a key component, the ammonia dual-fuel engine.

Two engine manufacturing powerhouses, MAN Energy Solutions and WinGD have promised the market the development of ammonia-fueled marine engines in late 2024 and 2025 respectively.

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HD Korea Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering earned distinction as the first South Korean company to secure certification for an ammonia dual-fuel engine from Lloyd’s Register in the UK in 2020.

The shipbuilder has set a goal to commercialize ammonia-powered ships by 2025, a goal that saw significant progress in 2021 with the successful development of an ammonia fuel supply system—a first in the industry.

This announcement comes on the heels of KSOE’s delivery of the world’s first methanol-powered containership in July 2021, following an order placed in August 2021.

The shipbuilder’s Hyundai Heavy Industries arm is pressing ahead with the construction of the sector’s first large containership running on methanol.

Last week, Maersk’s first 16,200 TEU containership powered by methanol hit the water at HHI.

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As the maritime industry explores ammonia as a potential green fuel, safety concerns surrounding ammonia bunkering and the design of ammonia-bunkering vessels are in the spotlight.

Ammonia, despite its well-documented toxicity, has been efficiently transported as cargo on LPG ships in recent years. The industry is now shifting its focus towards the creation of specialized ammonia bunkering vessels.

This transition poses a challenge due to ammonia’s distinctive features, which include low energy density requiring larger bunkering quantities, and the need for specific safety precautions owing to its potential hazards.

However, various safety considerations are being implemented to address the challenges the bunkering of ammonia presents.

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