TU Delft: NWO Perspectief Award for Project using Ammonia as Fuel for Heavy Transport

The world badly needs alternatives to fossil fuels that produce large amounts of carbon dioxide, which drive global climate change. One promising alternative is ammonia, which by combining Fuel Cell and Internal Combustion Engine technologies could be used to fuel large ships and heavy road transport. This innovative idea has given rise to a multi-organisational interdisciplinary project – AmmoniaDrive – led by Professor Rudy Negenborn at TU Delft’s department of Maritime and Transport Technology (M&TT), which has just been granted the prestigious Dutch Research Council (NWO) ‘Perspectief’ Award.

“The world is dependent on enormous ships for transport and offshore operations,” says project-leader and professor of Multi-Machine Operations and Logistics, Negenborn, “and these are hugely polluting because they run on diesel and other fossil fuels. If you add all these emissions together, the amount of pollution is comparable to that of a large country like Germany. So AmmoniaDrive is focussed on bringing these polluting emissions down to zero in order to achieve a fully carbon-free production and consumption chain.”

Ammonia has a relatively large energy density compared to Green Hydrogen, which means you can store a lot of energy in a much smaller volume. “This makes it very attractive as a sustainable alternative fuel,” explains Peter de Vos, researcher and instigator of this whole project. “What’s innovative about AmmoniaDrive is, firstly, using ammonia as a fuel, and secondly combining a high temperature fuel cell with an internal combustion engine. The idea is to feed ammonia into one end of the fuel cell, producing electricity and hydrogen at the other end. The hydrogen is used as a promoter fuel in the internal combustion engine to deal with the challenging combustion properties of ammonia.”

AmmoniaDrive is a consortium of six universities, three research institutes and twelve industrial partners which will spend the next five-years investigating how to use ammonia as an affordable, safe and energy-efficient fuel to make transport by ships and large trucks a lot cleaner and more sustainable. “We are incredibly proud and extremely pleased to have been awarded this Perspectief grant,” says de Vos, “and it is my personal hope that we’ll already be seeing the 1000th AmmoniaDrive ship starting her maiden voyage from the Netherlands by 2050!”