There’s a lot to like about ammonia. This colorless fuel emits no carbon dioxide when burned. It’s abundant and common, and it can be made using renewable electricity, water, and air. Both fuel cells and internal combustion engines can use it. Unlike hydrogen, it doesn’t have to be stored in high-pressure tanks or cryogenic dewars. And it has 10 times the energy density of a lithium-ion battery.
So there is always a fly in the ointment of this sort of story…
Manufacturers and engineers must overcome key technical hurdles and safety issues in the design of ammonia engines and fuel cells. Port operators and fuel suppliers must build vast “bunkering” infrastructure so ships can fill ammonia tanks wherever they dock. And energy companies and governments will need to invest heavily in solar, wind, and other renewable-energy capacity to produce enough green ammonia for thousands of ships. Globally, ships consume an estimated 300 million tons of marine fuels every year. Given that ammonia’s energy density is half that of diesel, ammonia producers would need to provide twice as much liquid ammonia, and ships will need to accommodate larger storage tanks, potentially eating into cargo space.
So to fully replace oil you need 600 million tons, all produced artificially in new chemical plants. And then there is the ‘pungent’ odor and its solubility in water where it produces a strong alkaline Ph, the fact that it can cause breathing problems etc etc etc.
Not saying it is not an interesting approach but I really have to wonder how acceptable this would be. This seems like a question of ‘what kind of hell are you willing to accept to reduce CO2’ when the reality is that there are a lot of other things to do first and a lot better future directions to take. I like the idea of the age of windjammers returning…as in the last post.