Japanese trio starts R&D for practical application of ammonia-fuelled tug

Japanese shipping company NYK Line, classification society ClassNK and power systems provider IHI Power Systems recently signed a joint research and development agreement to put the world’s first ammonia-fueled tugboat into practical use.

Ammonia-fuelled tugboat. Photo: NYK

As explained, 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 we will tackle themes such as technological development of the hull, engine, and fuel supply system, and development of safety navigation methods,” the trio said in a statement.

“After evaluating the practicality of the R&D results, we will begin study of the construction of the ammonia-fueled tugboat and the plan for construction.”

Within the R&D project, NYK will be responsible for the research and design of hull and fuel supply system as well as the verification of operation method. Furthermore, IHI Power Systems will provide its expertise when it comes to the research and design of engine and exhaust gas aftertreatment devices. In addition, ClassNK will be responsible for the safety assessment of ammonia-fuelled tugboat.

The three companies already worked together to jointly develop the LNG-fueled tugboat Sakigake, which was built in 2015 as Japan’s first ship fueled by liquefied natural gas (LNG). In this new joint R&D project, the parties intend to utilize the knowledge cultivated in the development, construction, and operation of Sakigake.

Future outlook

The introduction of ammonia as a marine fuel is highly expected to be a practical solution for decarbonization in the shipping sector.

This joint R&D is said to envision the implementation of ammonia marine fuel in tugboats that require high output, and the companies will establish the technical and operational requirements for that purpose.

If it is possible to commercialize 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, the three companies concluded.