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There are already plans on the table to create green, carbon-free hydrogen from renewables, so the maritime industry has begun its search for the next step, one which would allow H2 to be turned into a more easily storable, transportable form of fuel. Ammonia could be the answer, writes Stevie Knight.

Surprisingly, ammonia’s volumetric energy density is higher than liquefied hydrogen, says Grzegorz Pawelec of Hydrogen Europe: at 3.5kWh of energy per litre it takes up less space than LH2, working out at three times the volume of MGO. Admittedly, there’s a trade-off in energy lost to processing, but the benefits are arguably greater than the losses: ammonia poses a lower fire risk as it has a narrower flammability range and higher ignition temperature than hydrogen. Alongside this, it’s far, far easier to handle: it only requires 10 bar pressure or low-level refrigeration (below -33C) to keep it liquid.

Further, it’s already widely used in everything from fertilisers to plastics and pharmaceuticals, and as Gennadi Finkelshtain, CTO of GenCell Energy points out, “transcontinental pipelines and production of ammonia in quantities of more than 180m tonnes per annum” also mean there’s a lot of existing handling experience – and the common, hydrocarbon-derived variety is readily sourced.

Read the full article on The Motorship here.

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