Singapore conducts world’s first gas-fueled ammonia trial 

On March 15, Fortescue Energy, with the support from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), has successfully conducted 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. The Fortescue Green Pioneer was loaded with liquid ammonia from the existing ammonia facility at Vopak Banyan Terminal on Jurong Island for the fuel trial.

Fortescue Energy CEO, Mark Hutchinson, speaks on this first-ever world trial and the greater purpose it will serve the maritime industry, besides meeting its needs and demands. 

How did the partnership with MPA come about, and why the Port of Singapore to conduct these trials?

As the world’s largest bunkering port and a major transhipment hub, we believe Singapore has an important role to play in the decarbonization of the shipping sector. We have worked closely with the MPA and other agencies on the Green Pioneer project. Their collective support and Singapore’s strong research and multilateral ecosystem enabled the trials to be conducted successfully.

We now need other governments and port authorities around the world to follow the lead and vision of the Port of Singapore to help make this work globally.

Liquid ammonia, diesel and Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (HVO) were used. Please explain more about this marine fuel combination.

The use of ammonia in a combustion engine requires a pilot fuel to promote optimal combustion. In 2023, Fortescue ran successful trials at our land-based test facility in Perth, Australia, on the co-combustion of ammonia with a HVO pilot fuel. This testing was extended to the Green Pioneer project for the most recent trials.

Our goal now is to eliminate the need for oil-based pilot fuels to reap the full benefits of green ammonia.

What are some of the key observations in effectiveness, feasibility, and profitability in switching to ammonia fuel ?

Fortescue has proven that ammonia can be used safely as a marine fuel and that it is possible to decarbonize shipping. The shipping industry contributes a significant portion of global greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing these emissions is crucial to meeting climate targets.

By decarbonizing shipping, we can also protect against fossil fuel price volatility and secure more favorable access to capital markets.

The success of this was recognized recently at the World Hydrogen Summit 2024, where the Green Pioneer was given the Hydrogen Transport award. Fortescue was recognized for its significant achievements in the transports sector in advancing hydrogen technologies through innovation, leadership and scalability.

In terms of safe handling of ammonia fuel, what are emergency procedures and training of seafarers that need to be fulfilled?

Maintaining the highest safety standards is our top priority.

In preparation for the vessel’s operations in Singapore, Hazard Identification Study and Hazard Operability Study workshops were jointly organized amongst the MPA, Fortescue, Vopak (Ammonia terminal), research institutes and industry partners. These workshops were designed to identify potential risks and develop the necessary prevention, control and mitigation measures.

Training and safety drills were also conducted to assess the operational readiness and preparedness of both ship and shore side crews.

MPA is also in discussion with Fortescue to develop resilience of vessels with alternative fuels against cyber threats. Please share more.

As the shipping industry accelerates its digitalization pathway, cyber resilience is key to preventing disruptions and ensuring the safety of seafarers, port workers and other vessels, particularly those vessels carrying or operating on new alternative fuels such as green ammonia. 

We are working closely with the MPA to trial green solutions such as green ammonia, as well as digital solutions covering cyber and other digital pathways.

Photo credit: Fortescue Energy. Mark Hutchinson, CEO, Fortescue Energy.

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