Green Ammonia Emerges as Game-Changer for Decarbonizing Global Shipping

Oxford Study Proposes Strategic Approach, Foreseeing Over 60% of Shipping Fuel Demands Met by 2050

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Researchers from the University of Oxford have recently published a study in Environmental Research: Infrastructure and Sustainability, introducing a groundbreaking perspective on the potential of green ammonia as a key player in decarbonizing global shipping. The study suggests that by strategically targeting the top 10 regional fuel ports, over 60% of the world’s shipping fuel demands could be met using green ammonia.

The research delves into the production costs of ammonia, highlighting their similarity to very low sulfur fuels. The conclusion drawn is that green ammonia stands as a viable option to significantly contribute to the decarbonization of international shipping by the year 2050. However, the transition to a green ammonia fuel supply chain will necessitate a substantial investment of approximately $2 trillion by 2050. This financial commitment is primarily earmarked for building the necessary supply infrastructure.

According to the report, the greatest investment requirement is predicted in Australia, which will play a pivotal role in supplying the Asian markets. Additionally, substantial production clusters are anticipated in Chile, California, Northwest Africa, and the southern Arabian peninsula.

René Bañares-Alcántara, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Oxford, emphasized the challenges inherent in decarbonizing the shipping sector due to the need for high-energy-density fuel and the complexity of coordinating various groups involved in producing, utilizing, and financing alternative green fuel supplies.

To guide potential investors, the Oxford research team developed a comprehensive modeling framework. This framework incorporates a fuel demand model, future trade scenarios, and a spatial optimization model for green ammonia production, storage, and transport. The objective is to identify optimal locations to meet the future demand for shipping fuel.

Bañares-Alcántara stated, “The implications of this work are striking,” noting that the proposed model could replace the current dependence on oil-producing nations with a more regionalized industry. Under this model, green ammonia would be produced near the equator in countries with abundant land and high solar potential, then transported to regional centers of shipping fuel demand.

The study aligns with the growing momentum behind ammonia as the ultimate alternative fuel for shipping. The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently indicated in its Net Zero by 2050 report that ammonia is expected to be the primary choice for decarbonizing the shipping sector.

Several industry players, including Exmar and Yara Clean Ammonia, are already taking steps towards adopting ammonia-powered vessels. Exmar is poised to become the first shipowner to receive ammonia-powered newbuilds in 2026, while Yara Clean Ammonia and North Sea Container Line are collaborating to launch the world’s first containership using pure ammonia as fuel.

As the maritime sector navigates the complex landscape of alternative fuels, ammonia emerges as a frontrunner due to its economic viability and the absence of additional costs associated with carbon extraction, according to experts from MAN Energy Solutions. The industry is witnessing a paradigm shift, with ammonia gaining traction as a transformative force in the quest for sustainable shipping.

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