In the ShipFC project, the Fraunhofer Institute is working with European partners to develop the world’s first ammonia-based fuel cell for ships. Ammonia is mainly known as a fertilizer but is also useful as a high-quality energy source.
Shipping and climate change
Maritime transport emits around 932 million tonnes of CO2 annually and is responsible for about 2.6% of global greenhouse gas emissions. However, far too little attention is paid to this transport sector.
How is ammonia used as a fuel?
Ammonia is split into nitrogen and hydrogen in the splitting reactor. Hydrogen burns in the fuel cell, generating electricity. A specially developed catalytic converter ensures that no harmful nitrous gases are produced. What remains is water and nitrogen. A major advantage over hydrogen is that ammonia is easier to handle and store.
Status of the project
A small prototype is to be tested at the end of the year. A prototype in its final size should be ready by the end of 2022. The first ship with the ammonia-based fuel cell will leave port in the second half of 2023.
Ammonia is an underestimated energy source with great future prospects. The future will show whether and how far the technology will spread to other industrial sectors. Of course, all this only makes sense if the ammonia has also been produced sustainably.