Wärtsilä hopes to develop a complete ammonia fuel solution (Image: Wärtsilä)
Technology group Wärtsilä has begun conducting combustion trials using ammonia in preparation for the possible use of the fuel by the shipping industry.
During the tests, ammonia was injected into a combustion research unit to better understand its properties. The trials will be continued on both dual-fuel and spark-ignited gas engines, before field tests are carried out in collaboration with shipowners from 2022.
“The first tests have yielded promising results and we will continue to optimise combustion parameters,” said Kaj Portin, general manager of fuel and operational flexibility at Wärtsilä Marine. “This is an important step in making sure that Wärtsilä can provide the engine and fuel systems that shipowners need, whichever fuel they choose in the future.”
Ammonia is mainly derived from fossil fuel sources, but it is anticipated that its greenhouse gas footprint can be almost eliminated if it is produced using electricity. It could therefore help shipowners to meet the International Maritime Organization’s goal of reducing the shipping industry’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 per cent by 2050.
However, the fuel is toxic, corrosive and burns poorly compared to other fuels, making safe handling and storage important. Burning ammonia could also lead to an increase in nitrogen oxide emissions unless it is controlled by after treatment or the optimisation of the combustion process.
Wärtsilä is aiming to develop a complete ammonia fuel solution comprising engines, fuel supply and storage. The company is working with stakeholders in the marine industry to learn more about the necessary system and safety requirements, as well as fuel composition, emissions and efficiency.
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