This paper, produced by the Maritime programme within our Group Technology and Research unit, examines the potential use of ammonia in shipping and other industries and considers what it would take for ammonia to be adopted at scale as a maritime fuel.
We think that there are significant but not insurmountable technical and safety challenges associated with ammonia as a marine fuel. Barriers to adoption relate to the source of ammonia and the future cost of green ammonia. Almost all ammonia in use today is made from hydrocarbons, and as such confers almost no carbon abatement advantage, while simply adding costs. By contrast, green ammonia – produced by electrolysis powered by renewables or nuclear – is an excellent source of zero-emission fuel, provided that associated NOx emissions are managed appropriately. However, green ammonia is currently only produced in negligible amounts, and a massive investment programme would be required not only to produce a meaningful supply of green ammonia, but to drive down the costs of doing so, such that the fuel becomes financially viable for the shipping industry.