Equinor is modifying a vessel that supplies Norwegian offshore platforms, so it can cover long distances fuelled by carbon-free ammonia.
The Viking Energy supply vessel will be part of an EU-backed research project developing, installing and testing long-distance sailing fuelled by carbon-free ammonia in high temperature fuel cells. The technology will be tested on the vessel from 2024. The project will test whether the technology can deliver 100% carbon-free power over long distances. According to the project plans, ammonia will meet 60-70% of the energy requirement on board for a test period of one year. Viking Energy will still be able to use liquefied natural gas (LNG) as fuel, and the remaining power requirement will be met by battery.
The main partners of the five-year research project are NCE Maritime Cleantech, Eidesvik Offshore, Wärtsilä, Prototech and Equinor. Wärtsilä will deliver the power technology and ammonia storage and distribution systems. Prototech will deliver the fuel cell system. Equinor will contribute both to technology development and as a customer.
Viking Energy was the first LNG-fuelled vessel in Equinor’s fleet in 2003, and the first vessel with hybrid battery power in 2016. Hybrid battery power and power from shore are now part of the requirements for all supply vessels that sign long-term contracts with Equinor. During 2020 all 19 supply vessels on long-term contracts with Equinor will feature battery power and power from shore. Ammonia-fuelled vessels will be a further step to reduce the carbon footprint from maritime operations.
In 2018, the UN maritime organization IMO adopted a strategy to halve emissions from international maritime operations by 2050, phasing them out as soon as possible. In 2020, the Norwegian oil and gas industry announced its ambition to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 compared with 2005, and to near zero by 2050.
Employing a new carbon-free fuel will be essential to achieving these goals. Ammonia has the highest energy density of all carbon free fuels. It is produced by combining hydrogen and nitrogen from air, and when it is burned as a fuel the products are nitrogen and water. Hydrogen can be produced both from natural gas and from renewable sources through electrolysis. The hydrogen in this project is produced by Yara through electrolysis.
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