World’s First Use of Ammonia as a Marine Fuel in a Dual-Fuelled Ammonia-Powered Vessel in the Port of Singapore

Revolutionizing Marine Industry: Ammonia-Powered Vessel Debut in Singapore Port

Fortescue has successfully carried out the world’s first use of ammonia, in combination with diesel in the combustion process, as a marine fuel onboard the Singapore-flagged ammonia-powered vessel, the Fortescue Green Pioneer, in the Port of Singapore with assistance from government agencies, research institutes, and industry partners. For the fuel trial, liquid ammonia was loaded onto the Fortescue Green Pioneer from the Vopak Banyan Terminal on Jurong Island, which is the current ammonia facility.

In completing the fuel trial, the Fortescue Green Pioneer has also received flag approval from the Singapore Registry of Ships (SRS) and the “Gas Fueled Ammonia” notation by classification society DNV to use ammonia, in combination with diesel, as a marine fuel.

Ammonia as a marine fuel

Ammonia is utilized in business and agriculture worldwide. In order to make it chemically, hydrogen and nitrogen from the air are combined. Ammonia can be used as a maritime fuel to promote the energy transition and as a carrier of hydrogen to power generation centers. Shipowners have placed orders for many ammonia boats that are dual-fueled.

Fortescue Green Pioneer

At its land-based testing facility in Perth, Western Australia, Fortescue successfully modified a four-stroke engine to run on ammonia in combination with diesel in 2022, marking the beginning of the Green Pioneer’s path to becoming the first ocean-going ammonia-powered vessel in history.

After the land-based testing proved successful, conversion work on the ship started in July 2023 at Seatrium Benoi yard. In order to power the vessel using ammonia and diesel combined for combustion, two of the four engines had to be successfully converted. Other tasks included installing the gas fuel supply system, safety systems, and infrastructure. When necessary, the Fortescue Green Pioneer’s two surviving engines will run on conventional fuels.

After sailing from Singapore to the Middle East in December 2023, the ship was on display during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and related meetings (COP28/CMP18/CMA5) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Among the visitors on board the ship were international organizations, business executives, and world leaders.

Safety and Training Preparations

MPA, Fortescue, Vopak, research institutes, and industry partners jointly organized Hazard Identification Study and Hazard and Operability Study workshops in advance of the vessel’s operations in Singapore. The purpose of these workshops was to identify potential risks during fuel transfer and engine trials and to develop the necessary preventive, control, and mitigation measures.

Trainings were also carried out to evaluate the operational readiness and incident preparation of the crew, including safety drills led by MPAs and emergency responses specific to gas hazards. Before the trials were conducted, every member of the crew had acquired the requisite skills on the newly improved procedures.

Together, the Maritime Energy and Sustainable Development Centre of Excellence (MESD) at Nanyang Technological University, the Technology Centre for Offshore and Marine, Singapore (TCOMS), the National University of Singapore’s Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI), and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) developed an ammonia plume model to model the dispersion of an ammonia plume in the event of an incident, determine the safety envelope, and support safety and incident response planning. The operations were guided by a model that took into account the vessel and engine design specifications of the Fortescue Green Pioneer, the behavior of ammonia in Singapore’s tropical environment, sea current conditions, and the surrounding vessels, infrastructure, and geometry. It will improve over time when the Port of Singapore ramps up operations for new marine fuels.

First Ammonia Fuel Trial in Singapore

Additionally, a drone-enabled live broadcast run by Sky ports Drone Services was used to support the emergency operations center that MPA, Fortescue, Vopak, research institutes, and government agencies set up at MPA’s Port Operations Control Center to monitor the operations.

The Fortescue Green Pioneer’s ammonia storage systems, related piping, gas fuel distribution system, modified engines, and seaworthiness were all rigorously tested throughout the seven-week fuel trial. In order to guarantee safe port operations and safety for crew members and engineers who have finished a rigorous series of training sessions since October 2023, the tests were carried out in phases. Crew members also put on personal protective equipment, such as chemical protective suits, nitrile chemical gloves, rubber boots, positive pressure masks and hoods, and portable gas detectors for the pertinent operations, as part of the safety procedures for carrying out these tests.

The two four-stroke retrofitted engines served as proxy for the commercialization of ammonia-fueled marine engines under development globally. The post-combustion nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels met the local air quality standard, while efforts to reduce the pilot fuel for combustion ignition and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions post-combustion will continue as more ammonia-fueled marine engines and ammonia sources with lower greenhouse gas emissions become available.

Ammonia Fuel Loading at Vopak Banyan Terminal on Jurong Island, Singapore

The five cubic meters (three tones) of liquid ammonia used for the fuel trial was supplied by Vopak using its existing infrastructure at the 10,000m3 Vopak Banyan Terminal on Jurong Island. As part of the risk management, extensive pre-operations, safety checks and tests were conducted. A second tranche of three tonnes of liquid ammonia will be loaded for the Fortescue Green Pioneer to conduct further tests and trials over the next few weeks.

The ammonia fuel loading in Singapore, which is a first for Vopak worldwide, confirms that terminals worldwide have the ability to use similar and existing ammonia infrastructure at a reasonable cost to support the operationalization, commercialization, and progressive scale-up of ammonia as a marine fuel for international shipping.

Classification by DNV

From the very beginning of the project, Fortescue invited DNV to participate in the innovation process. DNV’s Technology Qualification process was used to class approve the Fortescue Green Pioneer’s ammonia fuel systems and engine conversion. This was done to make sure that the new technologies and systems installed onboard—which were not covered by the regulations in place—would operate within predetermined bounds and with a sufficient degree of confidence.

Prior to the issuance of the relevant statutory certificates by DNV on behalf of the Singapore Registry of Ships, MPA worked closely with DNV and Fortescue on the technical assessment of the vessel and the approval process of the vessel’s ammonia safety systems and design under the SOLAS regulation on alternative designs and arrangements.

Milestone for International Shipping

The successful completion of this ammonia fuel trial on board the Fortescue Green Pioneer marks a significant milestone in Singapore’s multi-fuel bunkering capability development to support digitalization, decarbonization, and manpower development for international shipping. This comes after the world’s first ship-to-containership methanol bunkering operation in July 2023 and the implementation of digital bunkering operations from November 2023. The group’s backing for these experiments also shows how Singapore’s robust scientific base, tripartite ecosystem, and regulatory framework are all in place to enable conducting trials and scaling up operations for novel marine fuels.

In order to choose a lead developer for the project, consortia that were shortlisted from a previous Expression of Interest for an ammonia power generation and bunkering solution on Jurong Island are presently engaged in a closed Request for Proposals process.

MPA and Fortescue will present key learning points from the trials at suitable platforms as well as at other international forums in the future.

Mr. 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. This will inform the crew training, emergency and bunkering procedures that MPA, agencies and the tripartite community are developing in support of making available safe and cost-efficient solutions as Maritimes and the international shipping community undergo the energy transition.”

“Australia and Singapore are nations for whom the seas are our lifeblood, and Fortescue has seen firsthand the willingness of Singapore to lead the world in taking brave, innovative action to build green ammonia shipping,” stated Dr. Andrew Forrest AO, Chairman of Fortescue. Green is green, that’s my message to the Singaporean government. Fossil fuels are used to make everything else. There are safe, sophisticated solutions for ammonia power engines, as demonstrated by the Fortescue Green Pioneer. However, just as I did at COP 28 in Dubai, I am once more urging ports around the world to proceed with establishing reasonable, secure, and strict fuel criteria for green ammonia and not back down from their obligations out of a lack of moral character. We need to work to ensure that those who emit greenhouse gases pay a fair price for the heavy fuels used in conventional shipping. To encourage green investment, these prices must send forth unambiguous investment signals.

We are honored to be working with Fortescue and MPA on this innovative project, which establishes a new standard for the use of ammonia as a marine fuel and strengthens Singapore’s leadership in alternative fuel bunkering, according to Cristina Saenz de Santa Maria, Regional Manager South East Asia, Pacific & India, Maritime, DNV. Over the past two years, we have worked closely with both teams to complete a stringent technological qualification procedure that guarantees the engine retrofit and ammonia fuel systems’ performance and safety. As we assist our clients in achieving their decarbonization goals, we at DNV share Fortescue and MPA’s dedication to fostering innovation and collaboration in the sector, which is reflected in the project’s successful completion.

Vopak’s President of Business Unit Singapore, Rob Boudestijn, stated: “We are extremely proud of our role as experts in handling and storing ammonia, having enabled the first-ever ammonia transfer for fuel.” We are dedicated to promoting safety excellence throughout the energy transition process as leaders in the industry with over 20 years of priceless ammonia handling experience in six sites worldwide, including Singapore. While we move forward with Singapore towards a sustainable future, our customers and partners can rely on Vopak’s demonstrated experience and resources as we decarbonize the energy and end product value chains over an extended period of time.

“Seatrium is proud to partner with Fortescue, MPA, and industry partners to deliver the successful conversion of the world’s first ammonia-powered vessel, the Fortescue Green Pioneer,” stated Mr. Chris Ong, CEO of Seatrium. As our customers’ go-to partner for vessel conversions in Singapore and worldwide, Seatrium contributes significantly to the global energy shift to lower carbon fuels. As the globe moves towards a greener future, Seatrium’s successful conversion of the Fortescue Green Pioneer’s engines marks a significant turning point in maritime decarbonization. It is impossible to overestimate Singapore’s contribution to this milestone, which offers the world a chance to make use of cutting-edge technology for the next stage of expansion in maritime operations. We will keep pushing for a more sustainable future for the business since we are honored to be at the forefront of this movement.”

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