Green Ammonia - A Climate-Friendly Fuel and Fertilizer

Keskiviikko 12.6.2024 klo 19.05 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Out of the world’s carbon dioxide footprint 3 % is due to shipping. The use of diesel oil can be discontinued when motors with green ammonia as a fuel are taken into use. One can estimate that such motors make up the majority of ship motors by 2050. When ammonia is produced using renewable energy sources, the carbon dioxide footprint becomes virtually zero. The ammonia-fuelled motors need to have catalytic converters so that no N2O, which is a powerful greenhouse gas, is emitted. With catalytic converters the end products of ammonia as a fuel are nitrogen and water.  Although ammonia as a fuel is likely to be more expensive than diesel oil for a short transition period, the position as a front runner will soon favour ammonia-based shipping. Further, the companies making ammonia-fuelled motors, have significant competitive advantage.

Currently, 80 % of global ammonia use is in fertilizers. Mostly the fertilizer production uses minerals and fossil fuels in production. However, also in this case green ammonia could phase out the current ammonia fertilizers completely. In addition to being sustainable and climate-friendly, the production of green ammonia for fertilizer would diminish the dependence on Russian fertilizer import.

Ammonia-fuelled motors for ships and green ammonia for fertilizers are examples of how climate actions can be of a significant economic advantage to societies which start producing them first. It is important not to think of today’s expenses but of tomorrow’s profits. And for all climate and nature actions, the expenses are smaller, if things ore done today than if they are delayed.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, shipping, agriculture

It is free - saving costs and environment with wind ships

Tiistai 3.10.2023 klo 15.42 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Every time one is talking about shipping, it is pointed out that fossil fuel is needed there long after virtually all other traffic becomes independent of fossil fuels. This is just conservative thinking. Since shipping has relied on heavy fuel oil for the past hundred years, people with limited imagination think that the climate-unfriendly fuel shall continue to be used in our ships. Maritime traffic causes about 3 % of all carbon dioxide load. In addition, shipping is an important contributor to oil pollution, shipping using diesel motors causes a lot of noise pollution, and it is the prime cause of whale mortality. All of these can be markedly decreased, if ships use wild as a fuel.

Besides, wind is free! It does not cost a cent. It is actually funny that shipping companies have not gone from fossil fuel-burning ships to wind ships earlier, as every kilometer travelled with wind instead of heavy fuel oil saves money. This shows again that changing our ways to an environmentally friendly direction need not increase, but decreases the costs of future actions. This is completely in contrast to what the conservative fossil fuel-loving people say. Naturally, even the wind ships need motors for moving in congested harbor areas, and in unfriendly winds. However, the amount of fuel that can be saved will be between 50 and 90 %. Further, future motors will use ammoniac or green hydrogen as an energy source, making shipping completely independent of oil.

The question is just: what are we waiting for? The technology is available. Money can be saved. Do we allow people with limited imagination spoil the planet before actions are taken? 


Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, fossil fuels, shipping

Zero-carbon shipping by 2050?

Maanantai 10.7.2023 klo 16.24 - Mikko Nikinmaa

The International Maritime Organization took a huge step forward in the fight against climate change, when it agreed that shipping would become carbon-free by 2050. Earlier, IMO has been quite conservative, and reluctant to take significant steps forward, so the agreement is even more noteworthy.

The reason for a radical change is mainly that many of the island and coastal countries, which naturally have shipping as a major business, are really suffering from climate change. However, also other countries with the notable exception of Russia (they are doing nothing right at the moment) have finally woken up because of heat waves, wildfires, droughts and floods.

The bold agreement is presently only paper, so it must be implemented. Thus, the first question is: is implementation possible? The question is very acute, since the life-length of a ship is up to 60 years. Thus, the ships built today are probably sailing at 2050. The initial reductions in decreasing carbon dioxide emissions are easily done, as the fuel of ships has been the worst source of carbon dioxide of any of the fuels. So, things are getting somewhat better, when the old ships are replaced by new ones using, e.g., liquified natural gas (LNG) as fuel. However, natural gas still produces carbon dioxide, so it cannot be the final solution. One possibility is to mop up the carbon dioxide produced, but that isn’t a real solution, either, as carbon dioxide is still produced, but is filtered away. The sustainable solutions are new motors using ammonia or hydrogen as fuels. Several ship motor industries have done a great deal of work in developing such motors, and it is quite certain that within the near future we hear the news that the first ships without any carbon dioxide production have been launched.

The ammonia and hydrogen need to be produced without fossil fuels, but that has become increasingly possible. What Putin’s Russia has done, when it tried to cut off especially the European energy production, is to speed up the transition to green energy. Putting everything together: reaching zero-carbon shipping by 2050 is difficult but doable.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, shipping, hydrogen economy, IMO

Promises, promises - COP26

Torstai 11.11.2021 klo 19.00 - Mikko Nikinmaa

The Glasgow climate summit has again brought a lot of promises of future actions in combatting climate change. Nations have agreed to stop deforestation by 2030, to generate carbon-free shipping and to become carbon-neutral generally by 2050 (except for India by 2070). However, so far virtually everything is just talk of future actions. And even the promises fall short of the 1.5oC temperature increase limit, which is the preferred target of the 2015 Paris Agreement. At present, the promises made (for 2030) would limit the temperature increase to 2.4oC.

And these are almost totally just promises. Since the electricity use has increased markedly in the 21st century, the proportion of it produced using renewable sources has increased only about two percentage points, from 37 to 39 %. Many countries, such as Australia are building new coal mines and oil exploration continues virtually everywhere. The social media are filled with climate-denialist propaganda, and what is very worrying is that close to 20 % of the biggest oil product companies are running ads with misinformation about climate change. Many Facebook and Twitter users believe these ads. In contrast, they say that scientists are spreading lies about climate change. It is amazing that after the heat waves, wildfire, storms and floods of this year, about 45 % of people, e.g., in Finland deny that there is any human influence on climate – and Finland is supposed to have high education level.

The fact that it is all promises with little action is shown by a couple of examples. In COP26 an alliance committing to ending oil and gas extraction was formed. As members it has Costa Rica, France, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, Quebec, Wales and Greenland. None of the countries are significant oil and gas producers and only Denmark has committed to immediately stop issuing new oil and gas licences. The other countries have not set a date to when they will stop permitting new oil and gas projects. In Finland subsidies of peat extraction were not stopped and worldwide subsidies to fossil fuels amount to hundreds of billions of euros. An alliance for generating non-carbon shipping by 2030 has been formed, but present changes from the use of diesel oil to the use of LNG actually increases greenhouse effect, because of the engine type used. The greenhouse gas emissions could be curbed by a different type of engine. However, they would cost more, as they require catalytic converters for removing nitrogen oxides.

It appears that despite their urgency, climate actions are not accepted, if they cost anything. This is a huge problem, since a small cost now could prevent a huge, if not insurmountable cost by 2050.  

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, fossil fuels, shipping, oil extraction

Methane limits to shipping - a climate action that could be done immediately

Tiistai 9.11.2021 klo 16.36 - Mikko Nikinmaa

The low pressure dual fuel engines used in most LNG-fuelled ships are more or less the same as the two-stroke engines (Otto motors) of old Wartburgs and Trabants, or present-day lawn mowers and leaf blowers. Typical for all two-stroke engines is that a lot of unburnt fuel is emitted to the environment. For example, 8-hour use of a leaf blower emits about the same amount of hydrocarbons in the environment as driving a car around the world. Thus, it is no surprise that the use of low-pressure dual fuel LNG engines cause a massive increase in the emission of the very powerful greenhouse gas methane.

What is worrying, though, is that the governmental response has been that even though the negative climate effects of most LNG-fuelled ships are clear, it does not pay to set emission limits to methane in ships for two reasons. First, LNG is only a transition-phase fuel from diesel oil to hydrogen or ammonia. Second, acceptance of the limit in International Maritime Organization would take up to ten years, and even then the requirement could be enforced only for new motors/ships. Consequently, any climate effect would not be seen before 20-30 years have passed.

The situation is somewhat funny, since the most important reason for replacing diesel fuel by LNG was to decrease air pollution. Compared to diesel oil, LNG causes virtually no sulphur oxide emissions and decreases nitrogen oxide emissions drastically. The latter is actually the reason for the use of low pressure dual fuel engines: the alternative LNG-fuelled engines, high pressure dual fuel engines have higher nitrogen oxide emissions, and would require external catalytic converters for removing the nitrogen oxides like cars have. Since nitrogen oxides have emission limits, decreasing their emissions has been priority in ship building.

However, the inability of governments to do anything not only with regard to this but in general in combatting climate change is alarming. In the case of shipping, this can mean that the climate effects double if LNG becomes a major fuel. The major problem is that any climate actions should be done immediately, but most responses require 20 years or more with devastating results.


Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, fossil fuels, diesel oil, shipping