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The EU-funded ENGIMMONIA project will evaluate how to promote ammonia as a bunker fuel as well as the shipboard potential of a range of land-based clean energy solutions including waste heat recovery and renewables integration on board.

The project, which commenced in May 2021, aims to promote the adoption of clean energy technologies, particularly for retrofit, and will involve demonstration-scale installations on an oil tanker, a container ship and a ferry. In parallel ENGIMMONIA will study how to abate emissions from dual-fuel ammonia engines, via specific N2O abatement solutions. With funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, the project is coordinated by Italian company RINA Consulting and involves 21 project partners from nine countries, including several technical universities and shipowners.

There are two main goals for the technology development, says project coordinator, Stefano Barberis from RINA. ENGIMMONIA will study the benefits of using ammonia as a bunker fuel, with much of the work undertaken at MAN Energy Solutions’ engine laboratory in Denmark focused on N2O Emissions abatement. The Port of Genoa in Italy will be involved in evaluating bunkering and logistics in Europe.

The second goal for the project aims to test other onboard technologies including waste heat recovery via Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC), adsorption chillers for space cooling and the installation of photovoltaic (PV) composite surfaces on the vessels. These installations will involve onboard fuel/energy/heat management optimisation via a real time energy management system. While the installations will be demonstration-scale, naval architect firm C-Job will study the integration and upscaling of the solutions.

RINA will focus on the regulatory, policy, infrastructure and safety aspects of all of the technologies evaluated in the project. This will include analysis of the health and safety and classification aspects of the technologies, development of a roadmap for the adoption of the concepts and an in-depth analysis of bunkering ammonia, including a specific study at the Port of Genoa.

METIS and SEASTEMA will be developing digital services to acquire data from any instrument on board the vessels relating to operational efficiency and environmental performance; assist crew in operating machinery and vessel at optimum efficiency; and support data scientists in evaluating the new technologies and fuels. A key part of that will be to provide a platform for all the engineers working on the project so they can collaborate, access data and run feasibility studies, says Serafeim Katsikas, CTO at METIS.

“We need to gather data to understand all the factors that affect the performance of the vessel and the environmental footprint,” he says. This involves coordinating team members to determine the type of data they can provide, looking for ways to standardise the data and developing key performance indicators (KPIs). These KPIs will be used to evaluate individual technologies and their potential return on investment as well as to consider the safety and operational status of the whole vessel. “There are a lot of aspects to this that we have limited knowledge on today.”

The three vessels won’t be fitted with engines that burn ammonia as fuel: there are two other European projects underway to develop 2-stroke combustion engines fuelled by ammonia, but the ENGIMMONIA project will study ammonia engine exhaust gas, particularly the formation of nitrous oxide (N2O or laughing gas).

The preferred option is to prevent its formation in the combustion chamber, say Stefan Mayer, head of engine process research at MAN Energy Solutions, but this is yet to be achieved in large 2-stroke engines. While confident that learning from smaller engine technology will help with this, he says the project partners are also addressing options for controlling N2O in the exhaust gas. “We are looking at a very wide envelope of combustion regimes and concepts,” he says. For this, MAN is partnering with leaders in modelling and simulation including researchers from Haldor Topsoe, Polytechnic University of Milan, Lund University, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the Technical University of Denmark (DTU).

DTU’s Professor Anker Jensen explains: “While catalysts for removal of NOx is a well-developed technology used on ships today, it is not so for catalysts for removal of N2O (by converting it to harmless N2 and O2 or H2O). Note that N2O is a gas with a greenhouse warming potential 300 times that of CO2 so only a small emission of N2O may offset the positive effect of burning a green and non-carbonaceous fuel like ammonia.