Wil Sillen's post

Only ten tank locations are required for shipping on green ammonia

By: Sebastian Maks
Green ammonia is seen as a promising means of making polluting shipping greener. However, setting up an entirely new logistics infrastructure to make that possible can feel daunting. Scientists from the University of Oxford have shown that it is an expensive task, but that you can supply the majority of shipping with sustainable fuel with just ten strategic refueling locations.
Shipping is responsible for about 3 percent of global CO2 emissions. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) therefore wants to significantly reduce emissions from ships in order to reduce net emissions to zero by 2050. From this year onwards, the sector will also fall under the European emissions trading system (ETS). This means that shipping companies within the EU must pay for CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions.

90 percent by sea
Making shipping more sustainable is a challenging job. Around 90 percent of global traded goods are transported by sea. This happens with colossal ships that are mainly propelled by fossil fuels, with all the known consequences. “Shipping is one of the most challenging sectors to decarbonize due to the need for high energy density fuel and the difficulty of coordinating different groups to produce, use and finance alternative, green fuels,” says professor of chemical engineering René Bañares-Alcántara.

Green ammonia
Research into these green fuels is increasing. Examples are hydrogen and biofuels from vegetable oils or fats. But also: green ammonia. To make this, sustainable electricity (such as from wind turbines or solar panels) is used to split water, creating hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen, together with nitrogen, is converted into ammonia under high pressure and temperature. It has a high energy density and only water vapor and nitrogen are released during combustion.

The global rollout of green ammonia for shipping comes with a hefty price tag. A recent study from the University of Oxford shows that $2 trillion is needed to achieve a green ammonia shipping system by 2050. That is about 1.8 trillion, or 1,800 billion euros. This sum of money will mainly go towards setting up a new infrastructure to transport the ammonia to ships and fill them up with it.
10 locations
At the same time, the scientists are nuancing this major task with an invention that simplifies things. They concluded that with just ten tank locations you can supply more than 60 percent of global shipping with green ammonia. These are strategically planned locations where an abundance of sustainable energy can be produced, a lot of space is available and they are also conveniently located. As a result, ships do not have to travel long to refuel and relatively little complicated transport infrastructure needs to be constructed.

According to the researchers, these are locations in Australia, Chile, West Africa, India, California and the Middle East. For the attentive reader: all located around the equator.

“The implications of this work are striking,” says Bañares-Alcántara. “Under the proposed model, the current dependence on oil-producing countries is replaced by a more regionalized industry; green ammonia is produced near the equator in countries with abundant land and high solar energy potential, and then transported to regional centers where there is a demand for marine fuels.”
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  • Tabitha Kimani

    13 w

    I just love how scientists through their research are able to simplify processes.

    • Esther Wanjiku

      12 w

      @tabitha_kimani Science is how the world evolves

    • Munene Mugambi

      13 w

      When you check on numbers of emissions from shipping lines, zero emission shipping is an astronomical change.

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