Joint R&D starts for practical application of ammonia-fuelled tugboat

Joint R&D starts for practical application of ammonia-fuelled tugboat
The ammonia-fuelled tugboat.

NYK, IHI Power Systems, and ClassNK have signed a joint research and development agreement to put the world’s first ammonia-fueled tugboat into practical use.

With the entry into force of the Paris Agreement in 2016, global momentum for decarbonisation has increased, and reducing GHG emissions has become an issue in the shipping sector. Since carbon dioxide (CO2) is not emitted when ammonia is burned, it is viewed to have promise as a next-generation fuel for shipping. In addition, it is said that zero emissions can be realised by utilising CO2-free hydrogen as a raw material for ammonia. The companies have therefore decided to start this joint R&D for an ammonia-fueled tugboat. This follows a previous collaboration where the companies worked together to jointly develop the LNG-fuelled tugboat Sakigake, which was built in 2015 as Japan’s first ship fueled by liquefied natural gas (LNG). In this new joint R&D project, the knowledge cultivated in the development, construction, and operation of Sakigake will be utilised.

The companies will proceed with R&D from both technical and operational aspects for the introduction of ammonia as a marine fuel for tugboats.

In fiscal 2020, the project will tackle themes such as technological development of the hull, engine, and fuel supply system, and development of safety navigation methods. After evaluating the practicality of the R&D results, the companies will begin study of the construction of the ammonia-fueled tugboat and the plan for construction.

The initiatives of each company regarding this joint R&D are as follows.

 NYK Line
  • Research and design of hull and fuel supply system
  • Verification of operation method based on experience of Sakigake
 IHI Power Systems
  • Research and design of engine and exhaust gas aftertreatment devices
  • Safety assessment of ammonia-fueled tugboat

Future outlook

The introduction of ammonia as a marine fuel is expected to be a practical solution for decarbonisation in the shipping sector. This joint R&D envisions the implementation of ammonia marine fuel in tugboats that require high output. The joint project aims to firmly establish the technical and operational requirements for that purpose. If it is possible to commercialise marine equipment that uses ammonia, which is one of the candidates for a next-generation fuel, and establish a method for operating the vessel, it is expected that the Japanese maritime industry will make a significant contribution to decarbonisation of the international shipping sector.