Wärtsilä has been testing hydrogen and ammonia in its fuel-flexible combustion engines. Hydrogen and ammonia contain no carbon, meaning the combustion releases no CO2 emissions. The full-scale engine tests were carried out in the company’s engine laboratory in Vaasa, Finland.

The tests were to assess the optimum engine parameters for running on these fuels. The test results are said to be encouraging, with one test engine performing very well when running on a fuel with seventy per cent ammonia content at a typical marine load range. Tests were also completed successfully on another engine in pure hydrogen operation.

Testing will continue throughout the coming years with the aim of defining the most feasible internal combustion engine-based solutions for power plant and marine applications, thereby enabling the transition to a decarbonised future with green fuels.

Marine engine running on ammonia

For the marine market, the company expects to have an engine running on an ammonia blend already this year. Wärtsilä anticipates having an engine concept with pure ammonia fuel in 2023. For the energy market, Wärtsilä expects to have an engine and plant concept for pure hydrogen operation ready by 2025. In the energy sector, it is anticipated that green hydrogen will deliver seven per cent of the global energy demand by 2050.

‘These are milestone moments in Wärtsilä’s transition to future fuels,’ says Håkan Agnevall, CEO of Wärtsilä. ‘Society will have to invest significant amounts into the infrastructure needed to develop green hydrogen, but those investments require market-ready engines that can run on the fuel once it is readily available. The energy and marine industries are on a decarbonisation journey, and the fuel flexibility of the engines powering these sectors is key to enable the transformation.’

Also read: Wärtsilä to build hydrogen cruise ship engine for EU research project

Ammonia storage and supply systems

Wärtsilä is also developing ammonia storage and supply systems as part of the EU’s ShipFC project. The company has gained experience with ammonia from designing cargo handling systems for liquid petroleum gas carrier vessels, many of which are used to transport ammonia. In addition, the company will begin testing ammonia in a marine four-stroke combustion engine together with customers Knutsen OAS, Repsol Norway and Equinor at the Sustainable Energy Catapult Centre in Stord, Norway, as part of the Demo2000 project.

The company’s engines can currently run on natural gas, biogas, synthetic methane or hydrogen blends of up to 25 per cent hydrogen. It is expected that Wärtsilä engines will be capable of transitioning to future fuels, including pure hydrogen and ammonia.

‘To achieve the transition to 100 per cent renewable energy by the middle of the century, a significant amount of flexible balancing power is needed as a complement to ensure stable energy supply, when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing. There will be different balancing power technologies, but combustion engines and battery storage will be part of the core solutions. By developing engines that can run on green hydrogen, we are enabling that grid balancing can be done via a 100 per cent renewable process, thereby enabling the energy systems of tomorrow,’ adds Agnevall.

Also read: Wärtsilä installs 1MW pilot plant to test carbon capture on board ships

Picture: Full-scale tests are being carried out by Wärtsilä’s engine laboratory team in Vaasa to assess the optimum engine parameters for running on hydrogen and ammonia fuels (by Wärtsilä Corporation).

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