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Solent University, Southampton, Osprey Research Limited and Pascoe International Limited have been awarded £300,000 Government funding to develop clean engine technology for powering small vessels with a new type of engine using ammonia as a fuel.

25th January 2024
EngineeringMaritimeHomepage - News - Standard

The ‘Powering Small Craft with a Novel Ammonia Engine’ project is one of the winners of a share of £33 million of Government funding to develop green technologies for ports and ships that has been awarded to 33 projects across the UK to deliver demonstrations, factory trials and feasibility studies.

The funding comes from the fourth round of the government’s Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (CMDC4), which focuses on developing a range of clean maritime technologies including electric, hydrogen, ammonia, methanol, wind power and more.

Maritime Minister Lord Davies said, Unlocking a sustainable maritime sector and the economic growth it provides relies on cutting edge technology to propel it to the next level. The voyage to sustainability demands bold investments to not just deliver greener shipping but highly skilled jobs across the UK.

"Transformative solutions can help shape the future landscape of the maritime industry and support jobs in coastal communities."

The small-craft industry has traditionally used engines based on their automotive counterparts. Changes to automotive technology, with manufacturers moving to electric or hydrogen propulsion, means that many marine engines are no longer in development, creating supply issues which are already impacting some small craft manufacturers.

While pure electrical power or hydrogen may provide a viable solution for many applications, carrying sufficient energy in smaller, faster sea going craft can present weight and internal storage issues. In the longer-term ammonia may provide a more feasible energy source to allow the use of internal combustion engines while achieving zero carbon emissions.

The project will use the funding to create a compact, lightweight but powerful internal combustion engine which will run on ammonia - featuring innovative technology to address some of the known issues with the fuel.

Andrew Barnes, Managing Director of Osprey Research Ltd, a specialist designer and developer of clean, efficient and compact engines intended for marine and off-highway use, says “Future marine propulsion will require a mix of technologies to suit the broad range of marine applications. The internal combustion engine provides a robust and proven solution, the issue is the fuel. However, moving away from carbon-based fuels to zero carbon fuels, such as ammonia, requires more than just re-calibrating an existing engine. The basic operation of the engine itself needs to be re-evaluated. This project allows us to look at a significant change to the basic engine architecture in a way we couldn’t otherwise justify.”

The project will also assess the impact of the engine on a representative design for a small craft to be used aboard superyachts. The results will be used to determine the overall environmental impact of the installation in a representative small craft.

Richard Watson, Managing Director of Pascoe International Ltd, an award-winning designer and builder of luxury superyacht tenders says: “We are committed to leading the superyacht market in the development and real-world integration of alternative fuel technologies. We see our work to develop fully electric solutions across our range as a step towards an industry no longer reliant on fossil fuels – zero carbon fuels unlock the next phase of lighter, longer-range vessels. The collaborative nature of this exciting project allows us to ensure that the installation and operation of emergent technologies are considered at an early stage, accelerating the time to market.”

All the information and data gathered will be used to assess the technical and economic feasibility of ammonia engines in small craft, and how it might be used aboard small craft. Solent University will undertake the Life Cycle Analysis to determine the overall environmental impact, as well as hydrodynamic testing to establish the performance and fuel requirements when installed in the vessel.

Professor James Knowles, Vice-Chancellor of Solent University, says, “This seed-funding provides an ideal opportunity to solve a pressing and serious challenge to the small craft industry. The project shows the real benefits of collaboration between industry and university research.

“Our findings will be used to develop and drive clean marine technology and its implementation in industry and help educate the next generations of naval architects and marine engineers.

“The maritime industry represents 3% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, so the reduction of this carbon footprint offers global societal benefit, meeting the objectives of the University in improving the lives of all its communities”.

-Ends-

Notes for Editors:

In March 2022, the UK Government announced the biggest government investment ever in our UK commercial maritime sector, allocating £206m to UK SHORE, a new programme within the Department for Transport focused on decarbonising the maritime sector. UK SHORE is delivering a suite of interventions throughout 2022-2025 aimed at accelerating the design, manufacture and operation of UK-made clean maritime technologies and unlocking an industry-led transition to Net Zero. The UK SHORE programme includes the flagship multi-year Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (CMDC) which provides match-funding to help bring pre-commercial technologies closer to market readiness. CMDC4 allocated £33m to 33 projects across the UK to deliver demonstrations, pre-deployment trials and feasibility studies between April 2024 – March 2025. The projects are supported by over 120 partners and will leverage more than £16m of private investment.

CMDC4 follows the successful first three rounds of the CMDC, which allocated over £95m to 105 projects. CMDC1 was launched in 2021, prior to UK SHORE.

Osprey Research Limited is a specialist designer and developer of clean, efficient and compact engines intended for marine and off-highway use. They have experience in designing, developing and testing alternative fuel and novel design engines.

Pascoe International Ltd is an award-winning designer and builder of luxury superyacht tenders, with a range of vessels used on some of the most prestigious and largest superyachts. Having built over 200 vessels, they are considered industry leaders in this field.

Solent University is a leading university in the maritime field, with specialist courses in yacht and small craft design, superyacht naval architecture and renewable energy engineering. It is also home to the world-renowned Warsash Maritime School, which provides education and training to seafarers around the world.