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21 November 2022

Ricardo report examines ecological impact of ammonia as a shipping fuel

Ricardo, on behalf of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), with support from Lloyd’s Register (LR), delivers flagship report examining the potential marine environmental impacts of ammonia spills during its use as a shipping fuel.

The study found that spills of ammonia as a shipping fuel could negatively impact certain habitats and species more than others, and that the likelihood and gravity of such spills are highly dependent on ship type, hole size, temperature or even time of the day.

Ammonia generated from renewable energy is considered a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels as the shipping industry decarbonises. Due to the scarcity of real-world data, Ricardo air quality specialists used PHAST modelling to focus specifically on the impacts of large ammonia fuel spill scenarios on marine habitats. Potential effects on aquatic environments and associated ecological receptors were assessed in scenarios if a spill were to occur during bunkering, or in the case of a ship’s collision and sinking. In addition, possible mitigation measures and specific spill management practices for these scenarios were modelled and studied.

Lauren Dawson, Senior Consultant, Water and Environment Practice, Ricardo, said: “Examining the impact of ammonia is a challenge because of the vast conditions a ship might face while at sea or even when bunkered. Critical factors to consider include the various ship and storage types, the underlying principles which determine the fate of ammonia in the environment, and the diversity of aquatic habitats and species that could be affected. Ultimately, what we found is that ammonia is more threatening to fish species, and particularly to ecosystems with less saline water and higher temperatures. It is therefore important to study the impact of ammonia carefully for particular regions where these habitats intersect with major shipping channels and ports, such as the Strait of Malacca. The findings of the report provide an excellent step forward to delivering a baseline upon which future assessments can be refined.”

Download the summary report here (4Mb)

Download the full report here (63Mb)


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