Classification society RINA strongly believes that ammonia can help decarbonise the shipping sector and is aiming to recruit a next generation of Project Managers to address this challenge and find a way to use clean ammonia as a fuel for ships.
As ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen, its molecule lacks carbon atoms, thus doesn’t emit CO2 during combustion. Therefore it has potential to be exploited for truly zero-carbon propulsion. However, nowadays most ammonia derives from natural gas, which is not a net-zero product.
In 2021, RINA signed a Joint Development Project Agreement with the Shanghai Merchant Ship Design & Research Institute (SDARI) to develop a ground-breaking ship design capable of being fuelled by either ammonia or methanol. This is considered to be the first project to investigate using both methanol and ammonia in a tanker ship.
Ammonia is not ready yet for bunkering in all ports – as it should be for immediate and widespread use -, but the design of a new ship can already consider how a vessel can be arranged to use ammonia as fuel. For this reason, RINA has published the requirements to get an additional class notation “Ammonia Ready” for traditionally-fuelled ships.
RINA sees the challenges of ammonia as a fuel for ships as:
- Cost: green ammonia is currently more costly than other kinds of fuels
- Safety: ammonia is highly toxic, flammable and corrosive. It is a risk for humans and aquatic life in case of accident and leakage, requiring strict safety standards, measures, and training.
- Regulatory collaboration: we still need a comprehensive regulatory framework capable of addressing the technical issues related to ammonia as a possible driver of shipping’s decarbonisation.