How ammonia could help clean up global shipping

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The American Bureau of Shipping, which sets safety standards for global shipping, recently granted initial approval for some ammonia-powered ships and fuel infrastructure, including a design by Samsung Heavy Industries, one of largest shipbuilders in the world. These ships could hit the seas in the coming years, as several companies have promised deliveries by 2024. While the fuel would require new engines and new power systems, swapping it for fossil fuels that ships burn today could help make a big impact on it. global carbon emissions.

And some companies are looking even further into the future, with New York-based Amogy raising nearly $50 million earlier this year to use the chemical in fuel cells that promise even more emissions cuts big.

Maritime transport accounts for approximately 3% of global carbon dioxide emissions. If early tests of ammonia or other alternative fuels demonstrate scalable systems, these new technologies could help the shipping industry begin to move away from fossil fuels and curb emissions that cause climate change.

Ammonia is attractive because of its high energy density – the amount of energy that can be packed into a given volume. Although normally found as a gas, it can be squeezed at relatively low pressures into an easily transportable liquid.

Ammonia is a chemical known to shipping companies. Globally, about 200 million tons are produced annually, and about three-quarters are used for fertilizer production. Many ports already have some form of ammonia storage for shipping.

The chemical, however, comes with challenges. Burning ammonia as fuel can create nitrogen oxides (NOx). These compounds are greenhouse gases that can also harm human and animal health, says Madeline Rose, climate campaign director at Pacific Environment, an environmental organization.

But if ships use ammonia for fuel cells, the problem of creating NOx pollution could be avoided.

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