Renewable Energy and the Norwegian Shipping Industry

Located at a crucial point between the North Sea and the Arctic Ocean, Norway has a long and varied maritime history, going back to the days when Vikings sailed across the Atlantic. Today, Norway is a major player in the international shipping industry, ranked as the fifth-largest shipping nation in the world. Modern Norwegians working in the shipping industry—over 90,000 people—continue the proud tradition of their ancestors while also embracing modern technology and aspirations. 

In the maritime industry globally, one of the chief concerns that countries, corporations, and individuals face is the same: how to reckon with the climate crisis and transition to a carbon-neutral future. Nationally, Norway aims to reduce its carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. To a large extent, the nation has made progress towards this goal, with over 92% of its electricity generation provided by renewable hydropower and emissions in buildings and various industries already reduced to near zero. This is reason to be hopeful, but it also indicates that challenges remain, some of which will be substantial. Further emissions reductions will require more inventive solutions across the industries that have yet to become carbon neutral. In particular, the maritime industry will have to embrace change—and new technologies—in order to reach its carbon emissions targets.

The Green Shipping Challenge 

The Green Shipping Challenge, formulated by the United States in partnership with Norway, “encourages governments, ports, maritime carriers, cargo owners, and others in the shipping value chain to come forward with concrete steps that will help put the international shipping sector on a credible pathway…toward full decarbonization no later than 2050.” One of the key elements of this transition in the maritime industry will be the embrace of new fuel technologies as an alternative to fossil fuels.

Norway, for its part, has proven remarkably receptive to alternative energy, not only in the public sector but also among private-sector companies—even including some fossil fuel giants. Offshore wind farms, in particular, have been embraced as one area of development.

When it comes to green shipping, maritime will have to look elsewhere: modern ships carrying kilotons of cargo can’t run, like their eighteenth-century counterparts, on wind power alone: the Age of Sail has long passed away. What they need is a new, alternative, renewable energy source—and they need it fast in order to reach the ambitious energy transition goals.

That’s where ammonia can play a role.

Ammonia as a renewable fuel

Ammonia—largely used as fertilizer—has remarkable potential for use as a renewable fuel source. Chemical formula NH3, ammonia is produced as a natural product of the nitrogen cycle and exists in large quantities in the environment as a colorless gas, but it can also be stored as a liquid under only mild pressure. Green ammonia is produced using carbon-neutral processes, like wind or solar-powered electrolysis of water, as opposed to blue ammonia, which is produced using fossil fuel sources. 

Compared to alternative fuels, ammonia offers a greater energy density and thus a greater capacity. The volumetric density of liquid ammonia is almost three times that of compressed hydrogen, meaning that more fuel can be stored in less space and vehicles can travel further with a lower internal tank volume. The storage requirements are also less expensive and less complex than those involved in storing and transporting liquid hydrogen. Moreover, as alluded to above, ammonia is readily available in our ecosystem, making it an easily renewable source of fuel.

Christian Berg grew up in Egersund, Norway, at the heart of Norway’s shipping industry. He’s worked in that industry for many years, beginning in the Norwegian Navy and continuing at the offshore drilling company Schlumberger and many other venerable firms in the shipping and maritime space. Now, as Managing Director for Amogy Norway, he feels he stands at the forefront of a movement that has the potential to transform the industry which has shaped much of his life, all thanks to revolutionary ammonia fuel technology. 

“Of all the alternative fuels, I see ammonia as the most realistic,” Berg says. He believes that the Norwegian shipping industry has the potential to act as a springboard for adoption of ammonia fuel technology for maritime applications globally. “Ammonia as a fuel will have a steeper hockey stick. We will see it being implemented at a much faster pace than what we saw for LNG [liquefied natural gas].”

Looking to the Future

There are around 200 ports globally with ammonia infrastructure. Scalability will be important for the implementation of ammonia fuel technology. In order to manage the cost, the government will need to play a hand in providing incentives for adoption—for instance, by implementing carbon taxes to make ammonia price-competitive with gas or oil. In fact, Norway has adopted such a scheme, with a carbon tax of $200 per ton by 2030.

Amogy’s proprietary technology uses liquid ammonia as a fuel source by “cracking” the ammonia into nitrogen and hydrogen. The hydrogen is fed into a fuel cell, generating power. Since its inception, Amogy has engaged in world-first demonstrations of the potential of ammonia as a fuel source: from a 5 kW drone to a 300 kW semi-truck over the course of only a year. As the technology scales, it will become feasible for the same system to fuel the motion of a 200,000-ton cargo ship across the world’s oceans.

Amogy maintains a presence in Stavanger and Stord, two crucial cities in Norway’s maritime industry, with the main Norway office in Stavanger. The Stord location provides a suitable space for experimentation and development as the team works on scaling its technology to meet the needs of global shipping concerns.

To learn more about Amogy’s technology and its applications for the maritime industry, meet the team at Nor-Shipping 2023 in Oslo from June 6-9, 2023.