MAN Energy joins forces with Imabari-led team to develop ammonia-powered ships

German engine builder MAN Energy Solutions has partnered up with Japanese shipbuilder Imabari Shipbuilding, ClassNK classification society, Mitsui E&S Machinery, and energy trading firm of Itochu Corporation, Itochu Enex, on the development of a vessel powered by ammonia.

Illustration; Source: MAN Energy Solutions

The cooperation builds on the work MAN Energy Solutions has already launched on the development of an ammonia-powered engine.

This will serve as the groundwork for developing the design of the vessel including that of the ammonia storage tank, fuel supply system and a series of systems for the main engine.

Mitsui and ClassNK will support the project through safety assessment services and insight, while Itochu Enex and Itochu Corporation will be in charge of exploring the ammonia fuel distribution network and establishment of a supply facility of ammonia for maritime use.

The project is in line with the shipping industry’s efforts to decarbonize shipping and build zero-emission vessels.

Hydrogen and ammonia have been identified as the likely zero-emission fuels of the future, with the latter having greater potential to power large trans-ocean going ships.

“The potential of ammonia as a fuel for two-stroke engine propulsion is huge as it will bring fulfillment of emission regulations, it has a higher volumetric energy density than liquid hydrogen, and it is less expensive and complex to transport and store than for example hydrogen and other fuels in need of cryogenic temperatures,” MAN Energy Solutions said in a white paper last year.

The engine manufacturer is working on a two-stroke ammonia concept, which will be an add-on to the ME engine, similar to the previous engine concepts for liquid gas injection propane, ME-LGIP (LPG) and liquid gas injection methanol, ME-LGIM.

When it comes to storing, MAN explained that ammonia can be stored on vessels under the same conditions as LPG, however, the tank volume would have to be twice that of LPG due to the lower energy density.

The engine manufacturer also believes that in the future engines running on LPG could be converted to ammonia combusting engines.

As such, the most likely vessel candidates for ammonia-based propulsion would be ammonia carriers or LPG tankers due to the similarity of tank storage requirements. Aside from retrofits, MAN believes that it would even be possible to order an ammonia-ready engine design for LPG combustion.

“Our engine portfolio shows that the MAN B&W two-stroke engines can combust literally any fuel type. The development time of an ammonia engine is expected to be two to four years,” the company said in the white paper.

“The technology is here, we are ready when the marine market is ready. When the production of green methanol, ammonia, LNG and biofuels can meet the quantities required in the maritime industry for two-stroke propulsion, we can deliver the engine.”