Ammonia as a marine fuel

Ammonia as a marine fuel analyses the potential use of ammonia in shipping and other industries and considers what it would take for ammonia to be adopted at scale as a maritime fuel. 

Green ammonia has a great potential to help decarbonise the maritime industry, provided that associated NOx emissions are managed appropriately. The DNV GL study points to the fact that ammonia has the key benefit of being easier to store than hydrogen, i.e. nearly identical to propane (LPG) at low pressure under ambient conditions. Hence, the cost of storage per energy unit is significantly lower than hydrogen, electricity in batteries or LNG. Moreover, ammonia is carbon free and processes for producing it from renewable energy are already known. Ammonia can therefore be considered an energy carrier that is more convenient than hydrogen. Still, green ammonia is currently only produced in negligible amounts.

According to the report, an extensive investment programme is needed to produce a meaningful supply of green ammonia and to drive down the costs to ensure that it becomes financially viable for the shipping industry. The cost of green ammonia is currently at least twice the 2019 cost of VLSFO, which is a barrier for the uptake of this fuel. The fuel consumption today of 300 million tonnes oil corresponds to 650 million tonnes ammonia, which would lead to 1.3 trillion USD investments in ammonia plants. However, the study also underlines that due to the high toxicity and corrosiveness of ammonia, appropriate safety barriers need to be in place and material selection is of paramount importance.

By Anna Lygre Solvang