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Full-scale tests are being carried out by the Wärtsilä’s engine laboratory team in Vaasa to assess the optimum engine parameters for running on hydrogen and ammonia fuels. ©Wärtsilä Corporation


Technology group launches hydrogen and ammonia testing programme

Wärtsilä says it is pioneering the adoption of hydrogen and ammonia as viable fuels through advanced testing in Wärtsilä’s fuel-flexible combustion engines in what it describes as a “fuel agnostic” approach.

October 27, 2021

Hydrogen and ammonia contain no carbon, meaning the combustion releases no CO2 emissions. Full-scale engine tests have been recently carried out in Wärtsilä’s engine laboratory in Vaasa, Finland, to assess the optimum engine parameters for running on these fuels.


Wärtsilä reports: “The test results are very encouraging, with one test engine performing very well when running on a fuel with 70% ammonia content at a typical marine load range. Tests were also completed successfully on another engine in pure hydrogen operation.”


The company says that testing will continue “with the aim of defining the most feasible internal combustion engine-based solutions for power plant and marine applications, thereby enabling the transition to a decarbonised future with green fuels”.


Wärtsilä expects to have a marine engine running on an ammonia blend this year. It anticipates having an engine concept with pure ammonia fuel in 2023. It expects that ‘green hydrogen’ will deliver 7% of the global energy demand by 2050.


Håkan Agnevall, CEO of Wärtsilä said: “These are milestone moments in Wärtsilä’s transition to future fuels. Society will have to invest significant amounts into the infrastructure needed to develop green hydrogen, but those investments require market-ready engines that can run on the fuel once it is readily available. The energy and marine industries are on a decarbonisation journey, and the fuel flexibility of the engines powering these sectors is key to enable the transformation.”


Wärtsilä is also developing ammonia storage and supply systems as part of the EU’s ShipFC project. The company has already gained significant experience with ammonia from designing cargo handling systems for liquid petroleum gas carrier vessels, many of which are used to transport ammonia. In addition, Wärtsilä will begin testing ammonia in a marine four-stroke combustion engine together with customers Knutsen OAS, Repsol Norway and Equinor at the Sustainable Energy Catapult Centre in Stord, Norway, as part of the Demo2000 project.


The company’s engines can currently run on natural gas, biogas, synthetic methane or hydrogen blends of up to 25% hydrogen. Wärtsilä says this “fuel agnostic” approach enables it to support the energy and marine sectors on how to shape sustainable, and efficient, future fuel strategies in several cost-optimal steps. For example, it says, hydrogen can be used as a fuel in its existing state or as a raw material for producing a wide range of future fuels, including ammonia and synthetic methane, each of which has different benefits for industrial and mobility applications.


Wärtsilä says its gas engines are highly flexible and are capable of rapidly ramping up or down in power. When wind and solar power vary with weather conditions, Wärtsilä engines can support the power system by ramping up power to meet the required load, reaching full capacity in under two minutes.


Methanol capability for Maersk box ships
Starting in the first quarter of 2024, A.P. Moller – Maersk plans to introduce the first in a series of eight 16,000 TEU container vessels that are capable of being operated on methanol, and it aims to use methanol that is carbon neutral. The ships have been ordered to be built by Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), with an option for four additional vessels in 2025. They will be about 15% more expensive to build than oil-fuelled ships.


The company says the new ships will replace older vessels and thereby generate annual CO2 emissions savings of around 1 million tonnes. It asserts: “As an industry first, the vessels will offer Maersk customers truly carbon neutral transportation at scale on the high seas.”


According to Maersk, more than half of its 200 largest customers have set – or are in the process of setting – ambitious science-based or zero carbon targets for their supply chains. As part of Maersk’s ongoing collaboration with customers, corporate sustainability leaders including Amazon, Disney, H&M Group, HP Inc., Levi Strauss & Co., Microsoft, Novo Nordisk, The Procter and Gamble Company, PUMA, Schneider Electric, Signify, Syngenta and Unilever have committed to actively use and scale zero carbon solutions for their ocean transport with Maersk says “many more expected to follow”.


Maersk says it will operate the vessels on carbon neutral e-methanol or sustainable bio-methanol “as soon as possible”. It concedes: “Sourcing an adequate amount of carbon neutral methanol from day one in service will be challenging, as it requires a significant production ramp up of proper carbon neutral methanol production, for which Maersk continues to engage in partnerships and collaborations with relevant players.”


However, it was also announced in August that Maersk has identified a source for carbon neutral methanol, REintegrate, a subsidiary of the Danish renewable energy company European Energy.


REintegrate and European Energy are to establish a new Danish facility to produce the approximately 10,000 tonnes of carbon neutral e-methanol that Maersk’s first vessel with the ability to operate on methanol will consume annually. The facility will use solar energy and biogenic CO2 to produce the e-methanol. Production is expected to start in 2023.


Methanol Institute promotes ‘well-to-wake’ GHG accounting
The Methanol Institute (MI) is calling on maritime policy-makers to adopt a ‘well-to-wake’ approach in GHG accounting of fuels to support the decarbonization of maritime transport.


The MI says an approach that accounts for GHG emissions of the fuel’s entire value chain is essential to stimulate the uptake of renewable fuels that can drive the maritime industry’s energy transition.


According to the MI, applying a well-to-wake approach in GHG accounting of maritime transport has four important implications for shipping.

A new MI policy paper includes an analysis of the consequences of focusing purely on tank to wake or ‘operational’ emissions. It argues that, by granting vessels propelled by ammonia or hydrogen from natural gas ‘zero-emission’ status, policy-makers ignore the fact that they emit more than GHG any of the other potential alternative fuels. The MI asserts: “If policymakers truly intend to apply a metric to GHG emissions which reflects reality instead of a false impression of progress, the well-to-wake approach represents the only viable path forward.”


“The approach for calculating well-to-wake emissions based on fuel consumption is well established, as Lifecycle Assessment is frequently applied across different sectors to assess true environmental impact,” says Matthias Ólafsson, MI Manager of Government and Public Affairs, Europe and author of the White Paper. “Shipping doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for as yet unavailable fuel technologies to reach technical readiness, regulatory approval and availability when clean fuels are already available now for existing vessels and newbuilds, are readily traded on digital fuel platforms, and are available in low carbon formats.”


The MI warns that a tank-to-wake approach risks selecting winners from the outset, which is “bound to stifle innovation and initiative and hinder actual progress”. It says that the well-to-wake approach stimulates the uptake of fuels produced with a reduced carbon footprint but “does not eliminate the so called ‘zero carbon’ propulsion fuels currently favoured by the tank-to-wake approach”.


Ammonia study launched
Japan-based Itochu Corporation says a joint study group it set up to consider issues arising from the use of ammonia as a marine fuel now comprises 34 companies and organisations, following a recent surge of interest.


Recent new members of the group include Anglo Eastern Ship Management; BHP; Bureau Veritas; CMA CGM; INPEX; JFE Steel; Lloyd’s Register; Maersk; Navios Group; Rio Tinto; and Vitol Asia. This expansion is an indicator of the high level of interest in the utilisation of ammonia as an alternative maritime fuel.


Alex Gregg Smith, Senior Vice President & Chief Executive, M&O North Asia & China at Bureau Veritas said: “Ammonia is a strong candidate as an alternative fuel in the maritime industry. We need R&D and collaboration to assess its full potential. The work of this Coalition will certainly bring real insights and expertise to develop the innovative solutions we need.”


KPI OceanConnect focuses on alternative fuels
KPI OceanConnect has launched an Alternative Fuels and Special Projects division to “enhance its counterparts’ ability to achieve their sustainability ambitions”.


It is being led by Bill Wakeling who says: “In the last 18 months, we’ve helped our partners successfully navigate through IMO 2020, and showcased our agility and innovation by completing one of the shipping industry’s first carbon offsets. However, there is no shortage of challenges for shipowners and operators as they seek to realise a more sustainable future, and we’ll be working with them side by side through our long-term partnership approach to help achieve their sustainability ambitions and regulatory compliance.”


In July, the broker announced the successful completion of its first carbon offset transaction with “a respected seismic research vessel owner and long-term client”. The voluntary carbon units are derived from a wind farm in Texas and verified by Verra Registry.


‘Green finance’ advice
Hogan Lovells and Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) have advised on two separate Korea Trade Insurance Corporation (K-SURE) backed ‘green’ financings for container liner company Hapag-Lloyd, with a combined value of more than US$1 billion.


The two firms say both transactions complied with the Loan Market Association’s Green Loan Principles, and were also in line with the Climate Bond Initiative trajectory as certified by DNV GL as an independent expert.


Hogan Lovells acted for Hapag-Lloyd, while WFW advised KfW IPEX-Bank and BNP Paribas as Global Coordinators and Green Loan Arrangers.


On the first transaction, which closed in December 2020, Hogan Lovells and WFW advised on a US$417 million green term loan facility for the financing of three 23,000 TEU newbuilding container ships for Hapag-Lloyd. KfW IPEX-Bank and BNP Paribas acted as joint global coordinator, bookrunner, green loan arranger and mandated lead arranger to the syndicate of lenders. K-SURE provided ECA cover for 95% of the loan amount.


For the second transaction, which closed in June 2021, KfW IPEX-Bank and BNP again acted as Global Coordinators and Green Loan Arrangers to a consortium of banks on a K-Sure backed US$852 million syndicated green loan to Hapag-Lloyd. The loan maturity is 12 years from the date of delivery and is for the construction of a further six 23,500 plus TEU ultra large container ships. The vessels’ delivery will begin in 2024. The lending consortium consisted of KfW IPEX-Bank, BNP Paribas, Bank of America, Citi, Deutsche Bank, DZ Bank, ING Bank, SMBC, Société Génerale and UniCredit Bank.


All 12 vessels on order are being built in South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and will be powered by LNG dual fuel engines,

KPIs Alternative Fuels and Special Projects division will be led by Bill Wakeling ©KPI

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