What are the opportunities and challenges with ammonia? - RINA.org

What are the opportunities and challenges with ammonia?

24 Nov 2022

RINA’s next-gen Project Managers will try to decarbonize the shipping sector

What is ammonia and how could it be the fuel of the future? 

Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen. This means its molecule lacks carbon atoms, thus doesn’t emit CO2 during combustion. It potentially could be exploited for a truly zero carbon propulsion.  

However, nowadays most ammonia derives from natural gas, which is not a net-zero product.  

At RINA, we strongly believe that ammonia can help decarbonize the shipping sector and our next-gen Project Managers will need to address this challenge and find a way to use clean ammonia as a fuel for ships.  

What are the opportunities offered by ammonia as a fuel for ships? 

We think ammonia could be playing a critical role in the decarbonization of the shipping sector and, on 1 May 2021, we published the first edition of our rules for the use of “Ammonia as fuel”.

Last year we also signed a Joint Development Project Agreement with the Shanghai Merchant Ship Design & Research Institute (SDARI) to develop a ground-breaking ship design capable of being fueled by either ammonia or methanol.

It is the first project to investigate using both methanol and ammonia in a tanker ship. 

Ammonia is not ready yet for bunkering in all ports - as it should be for immediate and widespread use -, but the design of a new ship can already consider how a vessel can be arranged to use ammonia as fuel. For this reason, in addition to the above-mentioned rules, we also published the requirements to get an additional class notation “Ammonia Ready” on a traditionally fueled ship. 

What are the challenges of ammonia as a fuel for ships? 

  • Cost: green ammonia is currently more costly than other kinds of fuels 
  • Safety: ammonia is highly toxic, flammable and corrosive. It is a risk for humans and aquatic life in case of accident and leakage, requiring strict safety standards, measures, and training. 
  • Regulatory collaboration: we still need a comprehensive regulatory framework capable of addressing the technical issues related to ammonia as a possible driver of shipping’s decarbonization  

Would you like to contribute to the decarbonization of the shipping sector?  Visit our career website and join RINA’s next-gen Project Managers!