Ammonia as a Renewable Fuel for the Maritime Industry

Last week, I wrote about a crucial new report that discusses four fuel technologies: batteries, hydrogen, ammonia, and nuclear. These could reduce the shipping sector's emissions in line with targets set in the IMO's Initial GHG Strategy. The report, Reducing CO2 Emissions to Zero, concludes that "all industry stakeholders ... need to get on with the job of developing zero CO2 fuels." This call to action should be consequential: it comes from the International Chamber of Shipping, an influential industry group that represents "more than 80% of the world merchant fleet."

This week, I provide an example of the kind of research required, with an update on a project that aims to demonstrate "the technical feasibility and cost effectiveness of an ammonia tanker fueled by its own cargo."

Although this project is still in its early days, I want to highlight three aspects that I believe will be crucial to its success. First, the work is being done by a consortium, bringing together many industry stakeholders, each with its own expertise and commercial interests. Second, the scope of research extends beyond conventional engine configurations to include not just new fuels but also new technology combinations; in other words, rather than assess new fuels in old engines, it aims to develop optimized propulsion designs for zero-emission fuels. And, third, its consideration of ammonia as a fuel begins with a comprehensive safety analysis.

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Science Publishes Feature Article on Ammonia Energy

On July 13, Science magazine, the flagship publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), published a 2,800-word “feature article" on ammonia energy. The article, headlined, “Liquid sunshine: Ammonia made from sun, air, and water could turn Australia into a renewable energy superpower,” is uniformly open-minded and upbeat.  Its opening section ends with a quote from Monash University Professor of Physics and Chemistry Doug MacFarlane; “’Liquid ammonia is liquid energy,’ he says. ‘It's the sustainable technology we need.’”

MacFarlane helped launch the Australian chapter of the NH3 Fuel Association.

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On the Ground in Japan: 5th Basic Energy Plan, LH2 Investment

Japan, widely recognized as a global leader in the development and implementation of ammonia energy, is a fascinating case study for advocates seeking a template for progress.  But, as Ammonia Energy has documented in numerous posts over the last two years, even in Japan the path is neither linear, smooth, nor preordained.  Two recent developments, one in the public sector and one in the private, illustrate anew the complexity of the evolutionary track the country is negotiating as it strives to create a sustainable energy economy.

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International Chamber of Shipping endorses “Reducing CO2 Emissions to Zero,” with ammonia as a maritime fuel

The International Chamber of Shipping has published a short but powerful report to "endorse" the International Maritime Organization's Initial Strategy on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships, adopted in April 2018. The ICS report calls the IMO's Initial GHG Strategy "a historic agreement which the global industry, as represented by ICS, fully supports," and discusses four fuel technologies that could deliver the IMO's targets: batteries, hydrogen, ammonia, and nuclear.

The ICS report also demonstrates four realities, which apply, perhaps uniquely, to the maritime sector. First, corporations are driving change, in advance of government legislation. Second, these corporations are looking for more than incremental reductions in emissions and instead targeting total sectoral decarbonization with the ambition "to achieve zero CO2 emissions as soon as the development of new fuels and propulsion systems will allow." Third, they realize that LNG and other low-carbon fuels cannot meet these targets: "the ultimate goal of zero emissions can only be delivered with genuine zero CO2 fuels that are both environmentally sustainable and economically viable." Fourth, they recognize that, because ships are long-lived assets, the need to invest in zero CO2 fuel technologies is urgent and immediate.

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GenCell launches commercial alkaline fuel cell using cracked ammonia fuel

GenCell Energy, the Israeli fuel cell manufacturer, has made two major announcements in the last month. In June, it unveiled its ammonia-fueled alkaline fuel cell system. In July, it announced its first commercial customer.

Its A5 Off-Grid Power Solution is a "nano power plant that operates fully independent of the grid." The first phase of product trials, using ammonia as a fuel to provide uninterruptible power to cell phone masts, will begin in Kenya by the end of this year, and "product roll-out" is expected in the second half of 2019.

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Nel Stakes a Claim on Another Key Frontier of Hydrogen Implementation

On June 28, Norwegian hydrogen company Nel ASA issued a press release announcing that the company will supply “448 electrolyzers and associated fueling equipment to Nikola Motor Company as part of Nikola’s development of a hydrogen station infrastructure in the U.S. for truck and passenger vehicles.”  The Nikola-Nel arrangement is a globally significant step in the process of implementing a full-scale hydrogen energy economy.  And although its approach for supplying green energy to hydrogen fueling stations does not involve ammonia, it seems likely it will ultimately help make the case for ammonia as an economically advantaged option.

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Green ammonia demonstration plants now operational, in Oxford and Fukushima

Two new pilot projects for producing "green ammonia" from renewable electricity are now up and running and successfully producing ammonia.

In April 2018, the Ammonia Manufacturing Pilot Plant for Renewable Energy started up at the Fukushima Renewable Energy Institute - AIST (FREA) in Japan. Earlier this week, Siemens launched operations at its Green Ammonia Demonstrator, at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory outside Oxford in the UK.

The commercial product coming out of these plants is not ammonia, however, it is knowledge.

While both the FREA and Siemens plants are of similar scale, with respective ammonia capacities of 20 and 30 kg per day, they have very different objectives. At FREA, the pilot project supports catalyst development with the goal of enabling efficient low-pressure, low-temperature ammonia synthesis. At Siemens, the pilot will provide insights into the business case for ammonia as a market-flexible energy storage vector.

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Toyota, 7-Eleven to Cooperate on Low-Carbon Convenience Stores

Last month, one Ammonia Energy post discussed Toyota’s participation in a Low-Carbon Hydrogen Project in its home prefecture -- including implicit support for ammonia as a hydrogen carrier.  Another post discussed Japanese manufacturer IHI’s plans to commercialize a small-scale combined heat and power system (micro CHP) based on direct ammonia solid oxide fuel cell technology.  Now, according to a June 6 Toyota Motor Corporation press release, Toyota and micro CHP have converged.

The announcement served as the unveiling of a “joint project” by Toyota and the convenience store chain 7-Eleven to develop “next-generation convenience stores aiming to considerably reduce CO2 emissions.”  The two companies initially agreed to cooperate in August 2017 on "considerations toward energy conservation and carbon dioxide emission reduction in store distribution and operation.”

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Battolyser Attracts Grant Funding, Corporate Support

The kernel of the story is this: Battolyser B.V. is taking a step forward with the battolyser, its eponymous energy storage technology.  On June 12, Battolyser’s joint venture partners Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and Proton Ventures announced that they had secured a €480,000 grant from Waddenfonds, a Dutch public-sector funding agency, to build a 15 kW/60 kWh version of the battolyser.  The installation will take place at Nuon’s Magnum generating station at Eemshaven in the Netherlands.  The move makes tangible the vision of the battolyser as an integral part of an energy supply system with a robust quota of renewably generated electricity.

The battolyser is a battery that stores electricity in the conventional galvanic manner until it is fully charged.  At that point, the device uses any additional electricity supplied for the electrolysis of water and evolution of hydrogen.  If the device is integrated with hydrogen buffer storage and an ammonia production train, the result will be a versatile and highly scalable energy storage system that can provide highly responsive grid support on all time scales from seconds to months.  (Ammonia Energy last posted on the battolyser on March 1, 2018.)

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A Roadmap for The Green Hydrogen Economy in the Northern Netherlands

A number of green ammonia projects have been announced in the Netherlands since the influential Power-to-Ammonia feasibility study was published in early 2017. Perhaps the most important publication since then, however, is the roadmap published by The Northern Netherlands Innovation Board, The Green Hydrogen Economy in the Northern Netherlands. Its scope, including sections written by consultants from ING, Rabobank, and Accenture, goes well beyond the standard techno-economic analysis and presents a cogent plan for coordinated development of "production projects, markets, infrastructure and societal issues."

Green ammonia features heavily throughout the roadmap, which calls for the construction of 300,000 tons per year of renewable ammonia production in Delfzijl by 2024, as well as for large-scale imports of green ammonia, starting in 2021, which would provide low-cost delivery and storage of carbon-free fuel, cracked into hydrogen, for the Magnum power plant.

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