KSOE Reports Breakthrough to Eliminate Toxic Ammonia Emissions

ammonia fueled ships
HD KSOE and Exmar are working on some of the first ammonia-fueled vessels (Exmar)

Published Jun 3, 2024 6:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

HD Korea Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering held a technology briefing in the lead up to the trade fair Posidonia reporting a potentially game-changing breakthrough for ammonia as a maritime fuel. While there are great expectations for it as an alternative fuel for ocean-going vessels, ammonia presents significant challenges both with the highly toxic nature of the gas as well as the challenges to starting and maintaining consistent ignition and not having ammonia leakage equivalent to methane slip.

The technology outlined by the shipbuilder they said can enhance the stability of ammonia-propelled ships. Calling it an eco-friendly technology, they said the outcome is a technology that reduces toxic gas emissions from ammonia fuel to zero.

Full details were not provided but HD KSOE describes it as an integrated ammonia scrubber akin to the widely deployed scrubbers used to clean exhaust emissions from ships burning high sulfur heavy fuel oil. KSOE said its technology would be deployed using a unique design that places the outlet where exhaust gases exit far away from the crew’s living areas. Further, they said it can absorb emitted ammonia twice and reduce emissions to zero.

How to eliminate the toxic risk of ammonia remains one of the hurdles that must be addressed. Singapore where the first-ever bunkering of ammonia as a marine fuel was recently completed required extensive modeling, testing, and planning. It delayed 2023 plans for a test of ammonia bunkering until the safety factors could be assessed. KSOE is not addressing bunkering but says it can eliminate the emissions after combustion. It is a similar approach taken by others to reduce or eliminate methane slip.

This comes at a critical time for ammonia as a marine fuel as the first orders for ships or ammonia-ready vessels are beginning to be booked. HD KSOE previously reported orders for a total of four ammonia-propelled LPG carriers after receiving orders in 2023 for the world's first two ammonia-propelled LPG carriers. Worldwide, DNV calculates there are 21 vessels on order for ammonia or to be delivered ammonia-ready while major engine manufacturers prepare to make the first ammonia-fueled marine engines available.

HD KSOE said companies including CMB/Euronav, which under the Saverys family is at the forefront of ammonia, as well as Thenamaris and NYK showed interest. So far, CMB, Berge Bulk, and Exmar have been at the cutting edge as shipowners moving ahead with orders for ammonia-fueled vessels.