Breaking new ground: Graz researchers developing ammonia propulsion

The LEC company is conducting research into a sustainable alternative for fuelling large engines and has commissioned a research facility for ammonia fuel on the Graz University of Technology campus. Using electricity from solar and wind power, this will be produced in a CO2-neutral manner and could revolutionise shipping, including saving 5% of CO2 emissions worldwide.

Full steam ahead: Climate-neutral ships set to conquer the oceans

In 30 years’ time, experts are predicting that every 4th ship will run on ammonia. The gas is considered to be a climate-friendly alternative to oil, if it is produced by electrolysis using electricity from renewable sources. It is only then that the production of hydrogen and nitrogen, which is extracted from the air, can be “green” and not contain carbon. When combusted, these gases do not release harmful CO2. In addition, ammonia fuel is stored at lower pressure making it easier to store than pure hydrogen. However, avoiding any form of combustion residues requires the use a fuel cell. In this case, ammonia is not burned, but completely converted back into hydrogen and nitrogen. A fuel cell then generates electricity from the hydrogen.

Potential to save five percent CO2 emissions worldwide with ammonia fuel tanks

The research facility, which essentially accumulates and stores ammonia, has been built in collaboration with industrial partner Linde Gas and could contribute to a significant reduction in CO2. Retrofitting large marine engines could also extend their service life by 20 to 30 years. And up to five percent of global CO2 emissions could be avoided. The ammonia infrastructure set up on the campus is unique in Europe and one of the first such facilities in the world.


Nina Simon
LEC Graz