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World first use of ammonia fuel in trial on Fortescue vessel in Singapore

Photo: MPA Fortescue Green Pioneer trials ammonia as a fuel in Singapore port
The world’s first use of ammonia as a marine fuel has been carried out in Singapore onboard the converted offshore vessel Fortescue Green Pioneer.

The dual-fuel ammonia-powered vessel, owned by Australian mining group Fortescue, was loaded with liquid ammonia at Vopak’s terminal on Jurong Island in Singapore for the fuel trial.

The Fortescue Green Pioneer was loaded with five cubic metres (three tonnes) of ammonia in the test, where the fuel was used in combination with diesel in the combustion process.

The Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said fuel testing was conducted over a period of seven weeks and included tests of ammonia storage systems, associated piping, gas fuel delivery system, retrofitted engines, and seaworthiness. The tests were conducted in phases and carried out by crew and engineers that received “rigorous” training sessions since October last year.

Teo Eng Dih, Chief Executive, MPA, said, “The safe conduct of this fuel trial supports the holistic assessment of the use of ammonia as a marine fuel, and the development of standards and safety procedures.”

The Singapore-registered Fortescue Green Pioneer was converted at Seatrium’s Benoi yard in Singapore from July last year with the successful conversion of two of its four engines to run on ammonia combined with diesel for the combustion process.

Chris Ong CEO of Seatrium commented: “The successful conversion of the Fortescue Green Pioneer's engines by Seatrium signals a crucial shift in maritime decarbonisation as the world looks towards a greener future. The significance of Singapore’s role in this milestone cannot be overstated, as it represents a global opportunity to leverage cutting-edge technologies for the next phase of growth in maritime operations.”

The vessel’s ammonia fuel systems and engine conversion were classed by DNV based on its Technology Qualification process for new technologies and systems.

In the coming weeks a second batch of three tonnes of liquid ammonia will be loaded onto the Fortescue Green Pioneer for further trials.

Mining group Fortescue is investing in ammonia to provide what it believes will be a truly green fuel for shipping and remains committed to a plan it announced in 2021 to convert its fleet of eight very large ore carriers (VLOCs) to run on ammonia. It has also been testing ammonia as use as a fuel on land for locomotives it runs in Western Australia.

Dr Andrew Forrest, Chairman of Fortescue stated, “My message to the Singaporean Government is only green is green. Anything else is made from fossil fuels.”

He called on more ports around the world to develop procedures for ammonia bunkering. “The Fortescue Green Pioneer is proof that safe, technical solutions for ammonia power engines exist. But as I did at COP 28 in Dubai, I am once again calling on the world’s ports to get on with setting fair, safe and stringent fuel standards for green ammonia and not shy away from their responsibilities simply because of a lack of character.

“We must push to see global emitters paying fair carbon prices for heavy fuels used in traditional shipping. These prices must provide clear investment signals to drive green investment.”

Of the various alternative fuels either in use or under development ammonia is the one that has prompted the most concerns from the shipping industry due to its high toxicity and the potential impact of a spill from an ammonia fuelled vessel.

However, Fortescue is far from alone in its efforts to push ahead with developing ammonia as marine fuel.

AET, the tanker arm of Malaysian shipowner MISC, is expected to receive its first ammonia dual-fuel tanker newbuilding in 2025, and is understood to be already undertaking crew training ahead of its delivery.

Engine manufacturer MAN Energy Systems carried out its first test firing of an ammonia engine in the middle of last year with its first installation to be carried out on a Mitsui OSK Lines container ship with operations expected in 2025 – 2026.

MAN Energy Solutions CEO Dr Uwe Lauber told Seatrade Maritime News in a recent interview that it saw strong potential for ammonia as a fuel for container ships.

In February CMB.Tech announced the order of a 1,400 teu, ammonia-powered containership in partnership with Yara Clean ammonia at China’s Qingdao Yangfan Shipbuilding.