Norwegian firm Equinor has signed an agreement to convert a supply vessel to operate on carbon-free ammonia-powered fuel cells.

The five-year contract will see subsea, seismic and cable-laying shipping firm Eidesvik Offshore modify the Viking Energy supply vessel.

Equinor said that the contract would be effective from April this year.

The supply vessel will operate as part of a research project. The project will cover the development, installation and testing of long-distance sailing powered by carbon-free ammonia.

It will also test to see if the technology can deliver 100% carbon-free power over long-distance sailing.

Testing will be performed on the vessel from 2024.

The main partners involved in this research project are NCE Maritime Cleantech, Eidesvik Offshore, Wartsila, Prototech and Equinor.

Wartsila will deliver the power technology, ammonia storage and distribution systems while Prototech will deliver the fuel cell system.

Equinor’s joint operations support senior vice-president Cecilie Rønning said: “Equinor aims to reduce the emissions in our supply chain, and regards the use of ammonia as a promising solution.

“Viking Energy may become the first supply vessel in the world covering long distances fuelled by pure carbon-free ammonia.”

Equinor said that ammonia will deliver 60%-70% of the power required on board. The test period will extend for at least one year, according to the project plans.

The Viking Energy supply vessel will still be able to use LNG as fuel while the remaining power requirement will be met using a battery.

Earlier this year, Equinor and the Konkraft partners launched a joint ambition to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from oil and gas operations in Norway by 40% by 2030.

The partners also aim to cut down the emissions to nearly zero by 2050.