Danish Effort to Develop Ammonia-Fueled Marine Engines

ammonia-fueled marine engine
Engine room (file photo)

Published Oct 21, 2020 8:20 PM by The Maritime Executive

A Danish consortium is the latest entrant in the efforts to develop ammonia-fueled marine engines. Established by a Danish investment fund, Innovation Fund Denmark, the goal is to develop a two-stroke, ammonia-fueled engine for the maritime industry. 

Seeking to complete the development of the engine in 2024, the effort which will be led by MAN Energy Solutions aims to specify and demonstrate an entire, marine-propulsion system that will pave the way for the first commercial order for an ammonia-fueled vessel. Other participants in the effort include the Danish fuel-system supplier Eltronic FuelTech, the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), and the classification society DNV GL.

“MAN Energy Solutions has spoken in favor of a maritime energy transition in shipping for many years now and we understand the need to work with a wide group of industry partners to develop sustainable solutions,” said Brian Østergaard Sørensen. Vice President, Head of Research & Development, Two-Stroke at MAN Energy Solution. “Ammonia is a fuel with a lot of potential and yet another, important step towards decarbonizing the marine market. We already have a convincing track-record in developing engines running on alternative fuels, having developed the world’s first 2-stroke engines driven respectively by methanol, ethane, and LPG, and have great expectations for this project.”

The widespread interest in ammonia is because it is an energy carrier that does not contain carbon, and whose combustion, therefore, does not produce CO2. Similarly, its production from electricity does not require a carbon-based source, while its production is infinitely scalable. MAN also highlights that since large quantities of ammonia are already transported around the world, it is a well-established commodity with some 120 ports globally currently involved in its import/export and some with storage facilities. Because the global infrastructure is already in place and with the perceived environmental benefits, using ammonia to power ships is viewed by many as a natural step for the shipping industry.

There already is a wide range of projects underway each seeking to commercialize ammonia as a marine fuel. This Danish funded project aims to demonstrate at full-scale a large marine engine running on ammonia at MAN Energy Solutions’ test facility, Research Centre Copenhagen. The project comprises three main stages starting with the concept development and initial design of an ammonia engine. They will then proceed to designing of an ammonia fuel-supply system and then undertake full-scale testing.

Known as the AEngine, the project is adopting an interdisciplinary approach to cover the implications of using ammonia as a fuel aboard a ship, as evidenced by its participants. MAN Energy Solutions will act as project coordinator. It will integrate all developed technology into an ammonia propulsion-train and be responsible for fuel injection, the combustion system, and emission after-treatment technology, as well as all on-engine components. It will also be responsible for the test facility and engine testing. Eltronic FuelTech will be responsible for the engine’s fuel supply system, including the Fuel Valve Train and its integration with tanks, and purging and venting systems. Eltronic FuelTech will also supply the AEngine’s fuel-supply system and Fuel Valve Train to the test facility. DTU’s Department of Chemical Engineering will be involved in investigating the chemistry of ammonia combustion and the formation of pollutants during combustion, while DTU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering will act as a consultant transferring its experience from small ammonia-engine research to a larger-scale, full-size marine engine. DNV-GL will cover safety regulation for the use of ammonia aboard ships and act as a consultant on questions where design decisions have an impact on safety.