A new study will examine whether "clean" ammonia could fuel traffic through Western Australia's immense marine export terminals.
Global producer Yara and the Pilbara Ports Authority (PPA) have agreed to launch a feasibility study into the use of ammonia as a marine fuel at Port Hedland - the world's largest bulk export terminal - and several other northwest ports.
Norway-based Yara owns a major ammonia plant near Karratha, with its output sold as a key raw ingredient in fertiliser.
Its potential use as a marine fuel could help to decarbonise shipping, which accounts for two to three per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Yara and the PPA have agreed to jointly assess potential demand, safety guidelines and what infrastructure might be needed to deliver fuel to ships.
"The potential of ammonia as a fuel to effectively decarbonise the maritime industry is very clear, however some questions remain on how to maximise safe and efficient fuel delivery in a port environment," Yara Clean Ammonia senior vice-president Murali Srinivasan said on Thursday.
"This collaboration with PPA intends to address these questions and consequently will help fast-track ammonia as a zero-carbon fuel in the region."
So-called clean ammonia includes blue and green types, the former generated using natural gas, with the carbon captured and stored.
Green ammonia is made with hydrogen, using a water electrolysis process powered by solar and wind energy.
More than 17,000 ships, including those used by major mining companies, travel through the Pilbara ports every year.
Last financial year the PPA reported a record annual throughput of 733 million tonnes, with the value of commodities that passed through exceeding $165 billion.
"This collaboration with Yara Clean Ammonia creates great opportunities to work together to reduce carbon emissions," PPA chief executive Roger Johnston said.
Yara is partnering with ENGIE to develop a green hydrogen plant that will be integrated with its existing ammonia plant in the Pilbara.
The project received a $42.5 million grant from the federal government last year via the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.