Ocean-going ships could move using ammonia over a decade, as the shipping industry is working to reduce carbon emissions.
According to the BBC, this chemical, an essential component of fertilizers, can be burned in ship engines instead of diesel, and the industry hopes that ammonia will help it cope with climate change, as it burns without its emissions. carbon.
Although the creation of ammonia itself produces large amounts of carbon dioxide, according to a new report, this problem can be solved thanks to new technologies.
The challenge is enormous, as shipping generates about 2% of international carbon emissions - about the size of the entire German economy. Also, ammonia production is a major source of carbon: According to a Royal Society report, ammonia production currently accounts for 1.8% of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, more than any other chemical industry.
However, the authors of the report argue that new technology allows for the creation of "green" ammonia with zero emissions: One way to do this is to trap carbon dioxide emissions when ammonia is produced, and bury it in the ground. Another way is to use renewable energy, which does not produce carbon dioxide. But the big question is whether there is enough "clean" energy to produce ammonia on such a large scale in the coming decades.
Ammonia is a chemical with multiple uses, but it can cause problems if used in the wrong places. It is used in large quantities as it is an essential ingredient of chemicals, fabrics, explosives, fertilizers and more. However, when used extensively in fields it causes air and water contamination and can interact with other chemicals and produce greenhouse gases.
The Royal Society petition stresses that farmers should use ammonia with greater care, but notes that its ubiquitous use in agriculture has resulted in the creation of a global port network where the chemical is stored. This means that the infrastructure to store it as fuel already exists.
Man Energy Solutions is developing an ammonia engine that it hopes will be ready by 2024. Peter Kirkby, a spokesman for the company, told the BBC that "we see great interest from the market for ammonia as fuel - even if there are challenges. We expect that the first ammonia ships will be existing tankers already carrying ammonia for fertilizer. They know how to treat it. "
He said he expects ammonia to move to other alternative fuels, such as LNG, or methanol.
However, the report points out that these fuels are not as efficient as diesel - so ships powered by greener fuels should have more storage space for fuel. In this context, the authors of the report say that hydrogen is too bulky for use on ocean-going vessels. Also, with regard to ammonia, its combustion may not produce carbon dioxide emissions, but it generates nitrogen oxides, which are also greenhouse gases. As emphasized, technology needs to be developed to address this.
Lead author of the Royal Society, Professor Bill David, told the BBC that "ammonia is the only zero-carbon fuel that can travel through the oceans ... but in terms of pollutants from industrial processes, ammonia comes immediately after cement. and steel, so we have to "carbonize" the production of ammonia. "