Maritime industry giants to explore ammonia as green fuel for U.S. East Coast

Maritime industry majors have joined hands on a feasibility study of ammonia as a marine fuel on the U.S. East Coast.

Illustration only; Archive; Courtesy of NYK

Namely, A.P. Moller – Maersk, American Bureau of Shipping, Fleet Management Limited, Georgia Ports Authority, Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping, Savage Services, Sumitomo Corporation, and TOTE Services have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to study the establishment of a comprehensive and competitive supply chain for the provision of green ammonia ship-to-ship bunkering on the US East Coast.

This study is planned to be conducted at the Port of Savannah, the third busiest gateway for containerized trade in America.

Ammonia is a promising alternative marine fuel for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the shipping industry. It does not emit CO2 when burned and aligns with the IMO’s goal to halve emissions by 2050. Green ammonia produced from renewable sources is carbon-free and can provide significant environmental benefits.

The Port of Savannah, home to Garden City Terminal, the largest single container terminal in the US, has the ability to serve numerous ammonia-fueled Ultra Large Container Ships (ULCSs).

The port is advancing with its Big Berth/Big Ship program to accommodate six 14,000TEU vessels simultaneously by 2024, and is planning to add 60% more capacity by 2025. Furthermore, Savannah’s proximity to the Ports of Brunswick and Jacksonville, which are the US busiest vehicle handling ports, may help facilitate decarbonization efforts in the automotive shipping industry as well.

The study aims to cover the entire end-to-end supply chain of ammonia bunkering, which includes the development of a cost-effective green ammonia supply chain, the design of an Ammonia Bunkering Articulated Tug-Barge (AB-ATB), as well as related supply chain infrastructure. In addition, safety assessments are critical to formulate standards for use of ammonia as a marine fuel.

Relevant government agencies and experts in the US will be engaged in working towards the standardization of safe operations and regulations, the companies behind the study said.

As part of the study, ABS will conduct operational risk assessment of ammonia StS bunkering and lead in the coordination with relevant authorities in the US to establish port regulations and operational guidelines. Maersk will provide input specific to container vessels and will work on development of safe and reliable ammonia bunkering procedures from the operator’s point of view.

Fleet Management Limited will work on the development of safe and reliable ammonia bunkering procedures from a ship manager point of view, and provide technical support in the design development of AmmoniaFueled Vessels and AB-ATB.

Georgia Ports Authority GPA will support the coordination with relevant authorities in the US to establish port regulations and operational guidelines, leveraging on experiences to support the launch of LNG bunkering at the Port of Savannah. Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Center will conduct a well-to-wake life cycle analysis (LCA) of ammonia and support to establish standards for the safe use of ammonia as marine fuel.

Savage will focus on domestic ammonia transportation for Savannah, leveraging the company’s competencies and experience in relation to their safe and reliable operation track record as a domestic ammonia carrier in the US.

Sumitomo plans to structure, integrate and promote the end-to-end supply chain of green/blue ammonia, which includes sourcing, transportation, storage, and bunkering. Finally, TOTE will develop AB-ATB and safe and reliable ammonia bunkering procedures from AB-ATB’s point of view, leveraging on competencies and experiences in relation to safe and reliable operation track record of LNG bunkering in the US.

“At Maersk, we are committed to net zero by 2040. To achieve this we need huge amounts of green fuel for our ships. For now, green methanol is the only pathway that is certain to have material impact in this decade, and we are happy to see the momentum that is building in the shipping industry on this pathway,” Morten Bo Christiansen, Head of Energy Transition at A.P. Moller-Maersk, said.

“Given the enormity of the challenge ahead of us, we must keep exploring additional new fuel pathways. We see green ammonia as a fuel with potential in the long term for commercial shipping. However, safety and environmental challenges related to ammonia’s toxicity must be addressed in the short term, and we must get a solid understanding of the cost of bunkering ammonia. This study will help our industry better understand the full spectrum of practical and safety considerations when dealing with green ammonia as a fuel.”

“As the world’s second largest ship manager, we’re committed to supporting our clients on their green energy transition journey, and in recent years have built our capabilities in designing dual fuel vessels and conducting safe and reliable ammonia bunkering. This aims to benefit not just our clients, but the decarbonisation pathway for the broader shipping industry,” Kishore Rajvanshy, Managing Director at Fleet Management Limited, said.

“We are leading multiparty scientific projects and risk management activities on how ammonia can be qualified as a sustainable and safe energy carrier for worldwide marine fuel deployment. The Port of Savannah project is a great logistical entry point for qualifying how ammonia could be made available. Furthermore, it provides a local and regional use case for commercial activation in the US East Coast,” Claus Winter Graugaard, Chief Technology Officer at Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping, said.

We embark on our ambition to build the first Ship-to-Ship ammonia bunkering base in the US in addition to Singapore and Oman, which highlight our commitment to offer our customers the best available and technologically proven solution to reduce the emission footprint from maritime transport,” Koji Endo, General Manager of Energy Division at Sumitomo Corporation, said.

Namely, at the end of 2021, Sumitomo Corporation teamed up with Keppel Offshore & Marine to explore the feasibility and implementation of ammonia bunkering in Singapore. They are eying the start of commercial operations in the mid-2020s. Under the cooperation, the companies plan to accelerate the development of an ammonia bunkering vessel in coordination with the relevant authorities and expand the ammonia value chain in Singapore.

Earlier this year, Sumitomo and Oshima Shipbuilding secured approval in principle from DNV for the vessel design of a Kamsarmax bulk carrier using ammonia as fuel. 

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In addition, last year SABRE consortium, of which both Sumitomo and Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller center are a part of, received approval in principle (AIP) from ABS for an ammonia bunkering vessel design.

Courtesy of SABRE consortium

The consortium comprises also Fleet Management Limited, Keppel Offshore & Marine, ABS, Japanese shipping Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (K Line), and Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).

It identified potential ammonia supply sources and indicative costs, and undertook the preliminary design and cost estimation for critical infrastructure, such as ammonia storage tanks and bunkering vessels, leading to the AiP from ABS.

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