One of the world’s largest systems suppliers for the food, beverage, and pharmaceutical sectors, Germany-headed GEA Group AG (GEA) has announced that it plans to support shipping companies and shipping lines that rely on ammonia as an alternative to diesel and heavy fuel oil (HFO). GEA plans to support the shipping industry in reducing emissions as a system supplier with in-house solutions and "developing appropriate technologies".
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The announcement was made by GEA during the international “Ship Efficiency” conference in Hamburg, Germany on September 27 – 28, 2021. In developing appropriate concepts for the use of ammonia (NH3), GEA aims to leverage its many years of experience and expertise in separator technology as well as refrigeration and heating technology using natural refrigerants such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and ammonia.
To reduce harmful emissions, more and more ships will be powered by alternative fuels to heavy fuel oil and diesel in the future. Experts from Det Norske Veritas group (DNV GL), an international classification society and service provider in the fields of technical consulting, engineering services, certification, and risk management, predict that in around 30 years at the latest, around a quarter of all ships on the world’s oceans will be powered by ammonia – alongside diesel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), heavy fuel oil (HFO), and biofuels.
With the fuel ammonia and a five percent diesel blend, shipping can be almost completely decarbonized in the long term. The reason is that ammonia burns without emitting CO₂. However, the decisive factor in terms of climate friendliness is that the energy-intensive production of ammonia is switched to renewable energy sources.
Another advantage is that ammonia also transports hydrogen that is carried in the ammonia molecule, which can be converted into electricity on-site in fuel cells. Another clear argument in favor of ammonia is that there is a great deal of experience worldwide in production, storage, and logistics.
According to GEA, it has developed a lot of expertise in the properties relevant to ship design and technical handling onboard. In addition, there is a great deal of experience in safety precautions for handling ammonia.
At ambient pressure, it already becomes liquid at minus 33°C and is, therefore, less costly in energy terms to handle and keep cool compared to liquefied natural gas (LNG), where this temperature is around -160°C, while liquefied hydrogen would require around -260°C.