US startup plans to launch world's first ammonia-powered ship this year
Brooklyn, New York-based Amogy Inc., has set itself an ambitious task to demonstrate the world's first ammonia-powered ship before this year comes to a close. If successful, it could begin the rollout of commercial vessels next year, a press release said.
The world of maritime transportation finds itself in a tight spot. Responsible for three percent of global carbon emissions, the industry is keen to switch to a greener means of transportation. However, technology like electric batteries available today cannot support long-haul transport. Ammonia as a fuel is a promising alternative but must prove itself.
Ammonia-powered ships by 2050
Founded in 2020, Amogy aims to decarbonize heavy-duty transportation with its ammonia-based, high-energy density power solutions. Last year, the company demonstrated how to power heavy machinery like tractors and semi trucks with ammonia.
It has now set its eyes on demonstrating its technology on water-based vehicles and is starting with a tugboat. While a tugboat may not be the first thing that comes to mind when discussing sea vessels, it is a critical piece of the shipping industry, often deployed to haul large ships out to sea.
The boat that Amogy has selected was built in 1957 and uses diesel generators to power its electric engines. The company plans to replace the diesel generator with an ammonia one. What makes it even unique is that the 1 megawatt (1MW) generator has thrice the output used for the semi-truck demonstration.
Although Amogy has previously used ammonia as a combustion fuel, for this demonstration, it plans to split the compound into hydrogen and nitrogen, so that the former can be used in a fuel cell to generate electricity and power the electric motors.
Ammonia may not be as energy-dense as diesel, but its combustion does not lead to carbon emissions. Currently, its generation is a source of emissions, but efforts are underway to produce greener ammonia shortly.
The company's plans to unveil the world's first ammonia-powered vessel can be thwarted by other companies who have previously moved to do the same. Interesting Engineering has previously reported how a company plans to power a 75-foot vessel using ammonia. Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) has set itself a 2022 target so that an announcement might be on the cards.
It does not matter who clenches the world's first title; the need of the hour is multiple innovations to rid maritime transport of its emissions. Each contribution will play a role if we want to achieve this target by 2050 or earlier.