Singapore’s MPA envisages the first ammonia bunkering from 2026, with a methanol pilot to pave the way

Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority anticipates that ammonia will be bunkered in its waters from 2026 after the first ammonia-fueled ships are delivered and once such safety standards for bunkering are available, its chief sustainability officer, Tham Wai Wah, said in an exclusive Interview with S&P Global Commodity Insights.

This comes after the MPA clarified, in response to the findings of a safety study released in late April by the MPA-funded Global Center for Maritime Decarbonization, that it was “not realistic” for the country to complete such attempts by the end of this year to perform.

As part of the Castor Initiative, which MPA joined in 2021, founding members of the industry-led coalition Lloyd’s Register, Samsung Heavy Industries and MISC, through their subsidiary AET, signed an agreement to supply two ammonia-fuelled VLCCs in the second half of the decade.

“We will proceed in small increments…I know the benefits of (ammonia bunkers) but technological advances may not be as rapid,” MPA’s Tham Wai Wah told S&P Global in the interview, adding that Singapore, which already has ammonia storage facilities can continue to meet industrial demand.

He added that four key considerations must be met before the country can adopt green fuels like ammonia: adequate supply, technological maturity, appropriate regulations and infrastructure.

Current technology also requires the blending of ammonia with polyfuel, and “cleaner” ammonia must be developed before engine manufacturing can be expanded, Tham said.
ammonia dilemma

The MPA and the Energy Market Authority of Singapore are reviewing proposals from an expression of interest convened in December last year that enabled the country to build, own and operate ammonia power generation, storage and bunkering solutions on Jurong Island.

According to the EOI, the EOI should also assist Singapore in developing safety standards and regulations in support of ammonia bunkering and act as a pioneering project to develop a hydrogen supply chain in Singapore as part of its National Hydrogen Strategy.

Once such ammonia solutions are built, Singapore can then move on to cracking ammonia to produce hydrogen, which can be used, for example, as a substitute fuel to run power plants, Tham said.

However, ammonia does not yet comply with the International Maritime Organization’s International Code of Safety for Ships Using Gases or Other Low Flammpoint Fuels (IGF code), meaning the IMO does not currently recognize it as a safe fuel, he added.

Ammonia is also toxic, corrosive and has to be stored at temperatures as low as minus 33 degrees Celsius, although it has been transported as cargo for decades.

In May, the MPA hosted a three-day workshop on how to deal with accidents involving ammonia-fueled ships, which was attended by more than 70 participants from 12 countries, including port authorities, classification societies and fuel suppliers.
First methanol

Meanwhile, MPA is pushing industry to adopt green methanol or e-methanol as a fuel. The first methanol bunker pilot in Singapore is scheduled to take place in late July, Tham said. The biomethanol used in the pilot project will be imported from the United States, the MPA said in an email statement.

This is because methanol is a more “mature” fuel traded and handled in other sectors, and fuels like this could be harnessed to accelerate the energy transition and provide new opportunities for new build and retrofit, given the IMO timeline 2050 was just a ship’s lifetime away, the MPA added.

Ships powered by methanol are also becoming increasingly popular; 19 ships were ordered in May; They outpace orders for LNG-powered vehicles by a ratio of 12 to 7, according to figures from DNV’s Alternative Fuels Insight.

“We are now seeing increasing momentum in the number of new buildings running on methanol,” Tham said. “If I’m using methanol now, if e-methanol is going to be available in the next 10 or five years, I’ll just use it as a drop-in (fuel).”

However, safety is also an important consideration when using methanol as a bunker fuel. For example, methanol burns with a blue flame and has a low flash point. Therefore, operators must be trained to recognize and fight such fires before any action can be taken.

However, MPA said methanol faces fewer hurdles to overcome as a fuel compared to ammonia, and that the upcoming methanol bunker pilot project will also help provide a framework for future ammonia bunkering development.

Role of a bunker node

There is no panacea for optimal decarbonization of the maritime industry, but the current focus of the MPA going forward will be green methanol, ammonia and hydrogen, Tham said.

MPA must keep up with the industry, provide space to test newer technologies like ammonia engines, and bring guidance and regulatory experience to consortia, he added

Singapore is also working with other ports on developing green and digital shipping corridors to jointly develop green solutions that can be tested and implemented along such sea routes, while work is underway with countries like Australia, as well as ports like Long Beach and Los Angeles .

“In order for us to actually transport all these (green) fuels or create a future supply chain in the maritime sector, we need to have the capacity to do so. That’s the advantage we have as the world’s largest bunker hub,” Tham said.

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