£5.5m 'disruptive' UK green ammonia study launched

MariNH3 MarineEngine.jpg
A partnership of UK academics and industry peers have been granted funding for a five-year research project on ammonia as a marine fuel.

The "Decarbonised Clean Marine: Green Ammonia Thermal Propulsion (MariNH3)" project will bring together academics from across the UK with regulators, equipment manufacturers, oil companies and other related industries.

Lead investigator Prof. Alasdair Cairns, Chair in Propulsion Systems in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Nottingham, said the project will research fast burning and ultra-low NOx combustion systems to address the challenges of slow combustion and high NOx emissions associated with ammonia as a fuel.

“Ammonia is set to play a key role, but there is current concern with the approach being adopted by some marine engine manufacturers, which involves ammonia dual fuelling, which is where some of the fuel oil is replaced with ammonia as a retrofit solution. Typically, up to 40% diesel is still used in these engines, which will have consequences for local pollution, and limit the scope for decarbonisation," said Cairn.

“The vision of the EPSRC MariNH3 programme is therefore to investigate full decarbonisation of marine transport emissions through multidisciplinary research focused on highly promising disruptive ammonia fuelled engine concepts, which have the potential to allow full decarbonisation, whilst minimising pollution and end-use energy demand."

To overcome Ammonia's higher absolute minimum ignotion energy, researchers will look to improve combustion characterstics through methods like co-firing with hydrogen, using diesel as a pilot fuel and uising a jet ignition engine.

The framework for the project is technology agnostic, said Cairns, and technical work will progress in parallel with developing acceptance criteria and policies, so that the technologies and policies produced are ‘right first time’ and appropriately scaled across the marine sector.

Cairns stressed that a zero emissions future will take a mix of technologies and there is no silver bullet.

Funding for the project was awarded by the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the project will run for five years from June 2022. The project brings together academics from Nottingham, Birmingham, Brighton, Cardiff and STFC. The project’s practical research is being conducted at the University of Nottingham’s Powertrain Research Centre in the Faculty of Engineering.

Researchers will take advantage of a new Volvo marine specification compression ignition engine, a jet ignition engine and a comprehensive suite of Signal Group exhaust gas analysers to monitor output of unburned ammonia, NOx, CO2 and CO.

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