Widely used in industrial applications, ammonia's suitability as a transport fuel has been limited because of the challenge of converting it into energy in a confined space.
TotalEnergies is joining a subsidiary of Norwegian chemical company Yara International ASA, leading ship certified Lloyd's Register, Samsung Heavy Industries and MAN Energy Solutions, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore and others in the 'Castor Initiative'.
This aims to develop two deep sea tankers that can run on ammonia, with both expected to be delivered in 2026.
"Ammonia could rapidly become a viable solution in the maritime sector while challenges remain to be addressed, in particular on the safety aspects," Jérôme Cousin, senior vice president shipping with TotalEnergies, said in a statement.
With about 90% of world trade transported by sea, shipping accounts for nearly 3% of global CO2 emissions, yet environmental campaigners say efforts to cut them are too slow.
The entry of TotalEnergies would accelerate efforts to deliver zero-emission deep sea tankers in the near future, Murali Srinivasan, SVP and commercial head of Yara Clean Ammonia, said separately.
"The clock is ticking for the decarbonisation of the maritime sector."
(Reporting by Jonathan Saul; Editing by Alexander Smith)