Home Top News Ammonia-fuelled bulk carriers within five years

Ammonia-fuelled bulk carriers within five years

Within five years, ships powered by clean ammonia could be a feature on the iron ore trade routes between West Australia and East Asia.

A study undertaken by the West Australia-East Asia Iron Ore Green Corridor Consortium has found that ships fuelled by clean ammonia could be deployed on the iron ore trade routes between West Australia and East Asia as early as 2028.

Green corridors – trade routes that promote and support zero-emission shipping solutions – are viewed as vital tools in facilitating the decarbonisation of the industry. The Fuelling the decarbonisation of iron ore shipping between Western Australia and East Asia with clean ammonia: Green shipping corridor feasibility assessment study highlights the feasibility of implementing a West Australia-East Asia green corridor, supporting the deployment of ammonia-powered ships, access to clean ammonia as the primary zero-emission fuel, and the establishment of bunkering infrastructure. However, the study found that the successful implementation of the corridor depends on the validation and acceptance of the safety case for ammonia as marine fuel.

The study findings suggest that the development of key technologies, such as suitable engines, and the adherence to regulations, will be crucial in ensuring clean ammonia-powered bulk carriers can take to the water by 2028. Additionally, there is expected to be an adequate supply of clean ammonia to meet both the short-term and long-term demands of the corridor.

Bunkering supply

Australia is gearing up to be a major producer of clean ammonia, but imports from other global production locations could supplement the corridor’s requirements, if needed. The study highlights Australia’s Pilbara region as a viable bunkering option, allowing ships to refuel without deviating from their trade route. Singapore is already well-positioned to serve as a bunkering hub.

Both Pilbara’s ports and Singapore have ammonia projects in the pipeline with ammonia bunkering infrastructure potentially in place by 2027-2028. The development of ammonia bunkering in the Pilbara is being driven by Yara, Lloyd’s Register, and Pilbara Ports Authority (PPA), who are jointly conducting a feasibility study to assess the technical, economic, and regulatory requirements for establishing ammonia bunkering in the area. The study is expected to be completed in the final quarter of 2023.

The study, conducted by the Energy Transitions Commission on behalf of the West Australia – East Asia Iron Ore Green Corridor Consortium, builds upon a previously published pre-feasibility report that identified iron ore shipping routes from West Australia to China and Japan as favourable for early action and having the potential to make a substantial impact on sector decarbonisation.

The study states that it attempts to answer three questions:

1. Vessels: Can ammonia-powered vessels be put on the water when needed?
2. Fuel: Could enough clean ammonia be available to power these vessels?
3. Bunkering: Could ammonia bunkering be available in Singapore and/or the Pilbara region of Western Australia?

Three conditions

While the report reinforces the corridor’s potential to be a first mover in shipping’s decarbonisation – helping to put the sector on track to reach zero emissions by 2050 – there are some conditions that need to be met to ensure success. Firstly, there needs to be confidence in and acceptance of ammonia as a safe marine fuel.

Secondly, there needs to be policy support. Partnership and support from the public sector will be essential to move clean ammonia-powered vessels, bunkering, and production from concept to reality. Here, the report noted that it is particularly important to close the cost gap between clean ammonia and conventional fuels.

Thirdly, there needs to be continued collaboration and co-ordinated action through the corridor’s whole value chain – from fuel producers and suppliers, to ports, shipowners, cargo owners, and investors. This will bring the green corridor “to life”, said the GMF.

The Getting to Zero Coalition – an industry-led, GMF-managed platform for collaboration, with an aim of making zero-emission vessels a scalable reality by 2030 – has formed an Australia-East Asia Iron Ore Corridor Task Force to serve as a collaborative industry forum to address issues. “To achieve their shared ambitions, interested actors should come together through platforms like the Task Force to tackle the barriers, reduce the risks, and drive the innovation needed to take the corridor forward,” said the GMF.

Ammonia concerns

The study is based on analysis by the Energy Transitions Commission, on behalf of the Consortium, which is a collaboration between the GMF, BHP, Rio Tinto, Oldendorff Carriers, and Star Bulk Carriers.

Addressing the report’s findings, Scott Bergeron, managing director of global engagement and sustainability at Oldendorff Carriers, said: “We are pleased to join in sharing this feasibility assessment to show how a well-considered green corridor can facilitate our collective desire to decarbonise shipping with an alternative fuel.” However, he noted: “While outside the scope of this report, the safety concerns and environmental risks of ammonia have yet to be adequately addressed. As the safety of our crew is paramount, these challenges must be overcome to enable adoption.”

Source: Baltic Exchange

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