Is green ammonia the fuel of the future?
Brooklyn-based startup Amogy and its backers think so. With $139 million raised in funding—led by South Korean conglomerate SK Innovations—the company is hoping to enable its zero-carbon and ammonia-powered technology, and ultimately create the world’s first ammonia-powered cargo ship.
A 2022 overview in the scientific journal Frontiers in Sustainability charts the waters of green ammonia.
The maritime industry, comprised of the construction, repair, and scrapping of vessels, as well as the movement of cargo and other materials, consumes large amounts of fuel oil, meaning that sea shipping releases a lot of carbon emissions—about 3% of global emissions annually.
The International Energy Agency’s measures, which are approved by the International Maritime Organization, detail cutting emissions in half by 2050 from 2008 levels. Like almost every sector, international shipping wears the badge of a glaring red “not on track symbol” in the IEA’s most recent report.
Between 2021 and 2030, the subsector needs a 15% reduction, but in 2021, its emissions grew by 5%, rebounding from its sharp, commendable decline between 2015 and 2020. The IEA says that in order to get back on track, emissions have to at least be steady through 2025, though a reduction is ideal.
“Innovation is vital to ensure that zero-emission oceangoing vessels are made commercially available by the mid-2020s,” the authors of the report write.
Amogy’s green ammonia may be one of those vital innovations, alongside electrification, hydrogen power, and biofuels.
Ammonia is a carbon-free molecule, and according to Frontiers, it can be manufactured using renewable energy sources such as biomass, solar, and wind, thus making it a carbon-neutral fuel.
Amogy is among a growing number of companies striking while the iron is hot and capitalizing on that fact.
According to the startup’s press release, Amogy is currently developing a chemical reactor to take ammonia stored in a fuel tank and “crack” the compound into hydrogen and nitrogen. Once cracked, the hydrogen flows into a fuel cell and is converted into chemical energy using electricity.
Already, the Brooklyn startup used this tech to create what they call the first ammonia-powered zero-emission semi-truck. Announced in January, the startup hopes it will put a dent in the heavy-duty trucking industry, which accounts for 23% of the total greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.
The power system for the semi-truck is 300 kilowatts. Now, the startup is upping its capacity to 1 megawatt or 1,000 kilowatts to power a tug boat. It plans to debut the tugboat later this year. The company anticipates the upstate New York sail will be a success and plans to commercially sell the tugboats in 2024.
But Amogy isn’t stopping at tugboats and semi-trucks. It plans to use ammonia in aiding decarbonization across shipping, trucking, agriculture equipment, and distributed energy and data centers.
“We are working from a place where we have no doubt that our technology will change the world,” says Seonghoon Woo, CEO of Amogy said in a statement.
“In 2021, CO2 emissions from transportation in the United States totaled 1.7 BMT — the most from any sector of the economy. This funding will help us to see our mission of forging a path toward net-zero 2050 through and in turn, make the world more sustainable. We greatly appreciate the investors sharing our bold mission, and we are laser-focused to bring our technology to market.”