The emission-free fuel is key to decarbonizing maritime shipping. Here’s why.
The world economy runs on maritime shipping. More than 80% of international goods by volume are transported by ships, which together weave the essential fabric of the global supply chain.
But all of that shipping comes at a high cost to the climate: Right now, every ship is powered by carbon-emitting fuel, which means maritime shipping is responsible for an estimated 3 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Curbing those emissions as soon as possible—and fully decarbonizing the industry as a whole—is an important piece of the worldwide project to fight climate change and reach net zero emissions by 2050.
Just to get on track, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has concluded that international shipping emissions must remain steady through 2025, then decline by three percent annually until the end of the decade. And the average lifespan of a shipping vessel is 25 years, which means that ships built from 2025 onward will need to run on zero-emission fuel or be powered by engines that are convertible to zero-emission fuel.
We need to build ships that can run on zero-emission fuel, we need to build them as soon as possible, and we need to scale up the production of fuel that will keep those ships running efficiently.
Today’s industry standard is bunker fuel, also known as heavy fuel oil (HFO), because it has a high energy density and it is easily and efficiently transported. Both of those characteristics will be necessary for any fuel source that powers zero-emission maritime shipping. Unfortunately, batteries don’t offer enough energy density to compete with bunker fuel in most situations, and the hydrogen that powers fuel cells is expensive and difficult to transport in liquid form. While methanol offers both high energy density and efficient transportation, it still has carbon intensity and the production of green methanol is not cost-effective.
That’s where ammonia will make a difference. While batteries, liquid hydrogen, and methanol will all play significant roles in reaching Net Zero 2050, ammonia is the most promising affordable, zero-emission fuel. Ammonia is three times more energy dense than hydrogen, making it a clean and efficient solution that’s also easier and faster than battery charging without the size and weight constraints. The production of green ammonia is scalable and cost-effective, sufficient to provide hundreds of million tons of affordable fuels.
At Amogy, we’ve pioneered an ammonia-to-power technology that uses its unique properties as a carrier for hydrogen. The key is a process called “cracking,” which converts ammonia into hydrogen. By combining our cracking system with hydrogen fuel cell technology, it is possible to use ammonia as fuel without any combustion or carbon emissions.
Maritime shipping is a gigantic industry. Ammonia-to-power technology must develop concurrently with increased production of blue and green ammonia, supported by public policy encouraging both. And ammonia is just one piece of the Net Zero 2050 mission to fight climate change.
But the technology exists to make it happen. At Amogy, we’re using it to retrofit a tugboat into the world’s first ammonia-powered, zero-emission ship. By acting urgently—by taking the steps now that will speed the transition to carbon-free shipping tomorrow—we can transform that knowledge into real progress for our decarbonized future.