AFC Energy secures funding for ammonia trials

AFC Energy, a leading provider of hydrogen power generation technologies, is pleased to announce it has been awarded funding under the UK Government’s Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (Round 4) (CMDC4), funded by the UK Department for Transport CMDC4and delivered by Innovate UK. 

CMDC4 is part of DfT’s UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions (UK SHORE) programme, a £206m initiative focused on developing the technology necessary to decarbonise the UK domestic maritime sector.

AFC Energy led consortium awarded £676,500 to design and integrate its proprietary ammonia cracker reactor technology with marine purposed, ammonia fuelled internal combustion engines.

Ammonia combustion is enhanced by the addition of an ammonia cracker, allowing an engine to run on an energy dense fuel mix consisting of hydrogen rich cracked gas and ammonia.

The demonstration if successful is targeting worldwide application across maritime vessels seeking to adopt ammonia combustion as its preferred zero carbon propulsion fuel.

Programme Partners include international leaders in engine design, MAHLE Powertrain (wholly owned subsidiary of global Tier 1 automotive supplier MAHLE GmbH), specially developed injectors and control valves from Clean Air Power, with testing and evaluation from the University of Nottingham.

Industry support from global shipping companies, Eastern Pacific Shipping and Purus.

Funding commences Q1 2024 with results from the proof-of-concept demonstration expected to be published twelve months later.

Ammonia crackers integrated with combustion engines provide a scalable and flexible route which could extend the lifetime of currently deployed onboard combustion engine assets.

Significant investment has been made by industry into multi-megawatt ammonia combustion engines designed to support zero carbon emission propulsion of the largest of marine vessels.  The aim is for ICEs to be used on their own or in partnership with fuel cell technologies to support both propulsion and auxiliary power needs of the vessel.

However, ammonia is not a simple swap in alternative fuel, there are several modifications that would be required to support the combustion of ammonia in a typical reciprocating engine – one of which is the addition of hydrogen to increase the flame speed and improve other combustion properties of the ammonia. By utilising an ammonia cracker, a Hydrogen rich cracked gas stream could be generated on demand from a single fuel source thus negating the need for multiple fuel storage solutions.

The CMDC4 funding will evaluate the feasibility of AFC Energy’s ammonia cracker technology aimed at improving the combustion and emissions of future ammonia fuelled marine engines by supporting the development of a highly efficient system that can be integrated with a multicylinder marine combustion engine. 

The Project partners will also incorporate their next generation technologies to support the integration and testing of the AFC Energy ammonia cracker with a typical combustion engine.

The feasibility study would include and measure the full impact of the cracker on engine combustion, performance, fuel consumption and pollutant emissions compared to a typical marine grade fuel. The project work will include formal technical assessments of the practicality of the cracker system across existing and future marine vessels of varying sizes and use, and portside operations. The assessments will consider the impact of the system on vessel design, performance, safety and cost.

The aim of the project is to help to rapidly accelerate the technology to market, with subsequent steps progressing to full scale demonstration on an operating vessel followed by commercialisation at global scale. In addition to marine applications, the technology developed could also be used in other applications such as large stationary power generators and large off-road machinery, where AFC Energy is exploring multiple partnerships across global OEMs in this sector.

The overall feasibility project cost is forecast to be £975.5k, with grant funding awarded of £676.5k, representing substantial value for money, especially considering the broad project scope, including development and demonstration at system level. The remaining balance will be funded by contributions from each of the Programme Partners.

AFC Energy is the lead partner and will provide expertise in ammonia cracking technology, adapted for the unique use-cases of the maritime sector. Support from the University of Nottingham and MAHLE Powertrain with access to their test engine and facility, demonstrates a commitment to UK innovation and supports development of intellectual property and expertise to enable the UK to be at the forefront of energy transition within the maritime sector.

The project is being supported by two of the global maritime industry’s leaders in the sustainable transition, Eastern Pacific Shipping and Purus.  Each are active in their assessment of ammonia adoption and have agreed to provide an industry review of the project, its progress, and adoption potential in transport vessels and larger carriers ships.

The funding programme is expected to commence in the first quarter of 2024 and last twelve months.

Tags: Ammonia, CMDC4, EPS, Purus
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