The world’s first carbon-free ammonia-fuelled supply vessel on the drawing board

January 23, 2020 10:01 CET | Last modified January 23, 2020 12:34 CET
Photo of the Viking Energy vessel
The Viking Energy vessel. (Photo: Eidesvik Offshore)

Equinor has signed an agreement with Eidesvik Offshore for the modification of the Viking Energy supply vessel, to make it capable of covering long distances fuelled by carbon-free ammonia. The vessel will transport supplies to installations on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS).

Equinor has awarded Eidesvik Offshore a five-year contract with effect from April 2020, when the current contract expires. The Viking Energy supply vessel will in the contract period be part of a research project developing, installing and testing long-distance sailing fuelled by carbon-free ammonia fuel cells. The technology will be tested on the vessel from 2024.

“Equinor aims to reduce the emissions in our supply chain, and regards the use of ammonia as a promising solution. Viking Energy may become the first supply vessel in the world covering long distances fuelled by pure carbon-free ammonia,” says Cecilie Rønning, senior vice president for Equinor’s joint operations support.

Together with the Konkraft partners Equinor earlier this year launched a joint ambition to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas operations in Norway by 40 percent by 2030, and to near zero by 2050.

Testing ammonia
The project will test whether the technology can deliver 100 percent carbon-free power over long distances.

According to the project plans ammonia will meet 60 to 70 percent of the power requirement on board for a test period of one year. Viking Energy will still be able to use LNG as fuel, and the remaining power requirement will be met by battery.

Equinor is part of the European innovation project ShipFC, a consortium of 14 European companies and institutions coordinated by NCE Maritime Cleantech.

Photos of Cecilie Rønning and Henriette Undrum
Cecilie Rønning (left), senior vice president for Equinor’s joint operations support, and Henriette Undrum, Equinor’s head of future value chains.

Technology development partnership
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.

“If we solve this the ship industry will for the first time use a fuel that does not generate emissions during combustion. Much work remains, but Equinor will contribute both to technology development and as a customer. We have never before used a carbon-free fuel on a large vessel without range anxiety,” says Henriette Undrum, Equinor’s head of future value chains.

Ammonia research on Viking Energy has a total budget of NOK 230 million, a substantial part of which is EU funded. The partners also have a good dialogue with Innovasjon Norge and Enova about potential additional funding of the project.

Continued greenhouse gas reduction
Equinor has since the early 2000s proactively addressed ways of cutting emissions from supply vessels on the NCS. 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 the 19 supply vessels on long-term contracts with Equinor will feature battery power and power from shore. Ammonia-fuelled vessels will be a new step in the right direction in the efforts to reduce the carbon footprint from maritime operations.

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Facts – maritime fuels

  • 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.
  • The Konkraft partners Norwegian Oil and Gas, Norsk Industri, the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association, LO, including the Norwegian United Federation of Trade Unions and Industri Energi, have together with their members established new climate goals. Norwegian oil and gas industry aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030 compared with 2005, and to near zero by 2050.
  • Employing a new carbon-free fuel will be essential to achieving the UN goal. Ammonia has the highest energy density of all fuels.
  • Equinor and Eidesvik have together been global leaders both on LNG, and on developing and using battery packages on vessels.
  • Ammonia (NH3) is produced by combining hydrogen and nitrogen in air. Hydrogen can be produced both from natural gas and from renewable sources through electrolysis.
  • Hydrogen in this project is produced by Yara through electrolysis.