NYK breaks ground on in-house biofuel testing hub

On Monday, January 29, Japanese shipping major NYK Group broke ground on a test engine facility, aimed at evaluating the safety and practical application of biofuels for maritime use.

Image credit: NYK

The company’s latest venture towards sustainable shipping is being constructed in Chiba Prefecture.

NYK Group companies Boltech Co., and Nippon Yuka Kogyo Co. will also participate in the project by utilizing their engine operation and fuel-oil-analysis technologies to verify the potential of various biofuels.

The NYK Group plans to complete the installation of the test engine by June. Following this, an intensive three-year analysis will ensue, focusing on conducting combustion tests to scrutinize the viability of biofuels.

Biofuels, derived from diverse raw materials such as grains and waste cooking oil, hold immense promise as eco-friendly alternatives to traditional fossil fuels. However, the commercialization of biofuels has been relatively slow, with only a select few currently in use. NYK’s project aims to change this landscape by leveraging its expertise and resources to assess the potential of various biofuels.

One of the challenges in integrating new fuels into shipping operations is the lengthy testing and analysis process. Typically, it involves about a year of testing and analysis at an external engine facility, followed by 12–18 months of onboard trials before continuous shipboard use becomes a reality.

NYK aims to overcome this obstacle by owning and operating the test engine, thereby shortening the testing period and expediting the time until the new fuel can be effectively used on board.

The engine

The company revealed that the test engine will be a reused generator from the tugboat Sakigake, which is currently being converted to an ammonia-fueled tug.

NYK started the conversion of the LNG-fueled tugboat to ammonia in October 2023. The conversion is being conducted at at Oppama factory of Keihin Dock Co.

The project involves the development of vessels equipped with a domestically produced ammonia-fueled engine in cooperation with Japan Engine Corporation, IHI Power Systems, and Nihon Shipyard. It is part of the Green Innovation Fund Project of Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

The new engine has been tested at IHI Power Systems’ Ota Plant to confirm virtually zero emissions from the unburned ammonia and the nitrous oxide.

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A-tug is scheduled for delivery in June 2024.

Once delivered, the vessel will continue to be operated by Shin-Nihon Kaiyosha to verify its decarbonization effect and operational safety as the world’s first ammonia-fueled vessel.