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Ammonia has traditionally been used primarily as a precursor in the production of fertilizers but is increasingly being considered as a promising zero-emission alternative fuel for decarbonizing the maritime sector. SINTEF has research activities along the entire ammonia value chain, from production to use as a fuel onboard ships. We assist both industry and the public sector with technology development and market analysis.

Ammonia is considered a promising zero-emission fuel that can supplement hydrogen and batteries, especially for ocean-going ships or vessels with limited fuel storage capacity. This is because ammonia is easily liquified at moderate pressure and temperature, while having twice the volumetric energy density of liquid hydrogen.

For ammonia to truly be considered as zero-emission it has to be produced using either renewable electricity (“green ammonia”) or in combination with carbon capture and storage (“blue ammonia”)

SINTEF is working to develop new solutions for production and use of ammonia as a maritime fuel and researching the environmental impacts of ammonia emissions to the atmosphere and marine environments. A dedicated NH3 lab is established in Oslo for testing of fuel cells, membranes and various components in ammonia-containing atmospheres. Catalysts for synthesis and decomposition of ammonia are studied in the gas conversion laboratory located in Trondheim.

Research areas:

  • Production of ammonia
    • Ammonia synthesis at reduced temperature and pressure
    • Sorbents for ammonia separation during synthesis
    • Alternative production methods (direct electrochemical production of ammonia)
  • Ammonia as a fuel in fuel cells, combustion engines and gas turbines
    • Testing of fuel cells (SOFC, PCFC, PEMFC) with ammonia fuel or impurities (evaluation of performance, durability, and degradation mechanisms)
    • Combustion of ammonia in engines and gas turbines
  • Ammonia as a source of hydrogen and reactant for production of chemicals
    • Catalysts for ammonia decomposition
    • Metallic (palladium-) based and ceramic membranes for hydrogen separation
    • Reconstruction and loss of noble metals used as catalyst for oxidation of NH3 during nitric acid production
  • Process integration
    • Optimalization of system efficiency and integration of system components (fuel cells, reactors, engines, turbines, etc.)
  • Environmental impact of ammonia
    • Evaluation of concentration limits for poisoning of marine organisms
    • Numeric models for simulating accidental spills and assessing risk of environmental impact
    • Measures for minimizing environmental impact
    • Evaluation of greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental aspects of ammonia production
    • Development of chemical processes and materials for removal of NOx during ammonia combustion and removal of excess NH3 from deNOx process by selective catalytic reduction

Typical assignments:

  • Analysis of value chain, greenhouse gas emissions, environmental impact and techno-economic aspects of the entire ammonia value chain (production, transport, bunkering and use as fuel) to support decision making
  • Concept studies and technology evaluations for using ammonia as a fuel onboard ships:
    • Analysis of fuel consumption and dimensioning of fuel cells and other components
    • Evaluating system layout on board vessels (e.g. placement of fuel tanks and fuel cells)
  • Characterization of fuel cells and components in ammonia-containing atmospheres
  • Kinetic studies of catalysts and sorbents
  • Modelling ammonia combustion in engines and gas turbines
  • Materials development of catalysts for ammonia production, use, and decomposition, membranes for hydrogen separation from ammonia-containing atmospheres and coatings for protection of steel
  • Analysis of safety aspects related to storage and bunkering of ammonia, and use onboard vessels as a fuel (e.g. simulating dispersion in case of leakages)

Typical clients:

  • Energy industry and technology manufacturers
  • End users within the maritime sector (e.g. ship builders and -owners)
  • Fuel cell, combustion engine and gas turbine manufacturers
  • Decision makers within the public sector

Relevant projects:

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