Category: Netherlands

Ammonia-to-Hydrogen Seen for Electricity Generation

Approximately 40% of the world’s energy budget is consumed in the generation of electricity.  This is by far the largest use of primary energy across major energy-consuming sectors (transportation, industry, etc.).  What role ammonia will play in the electricity sector is therefore a question of considerable importance for the sustainable energy system of the future.  One concept currently on the table is power-to-ammonia as a means of electricity storage, whereby electricity is used to produce hydrogen and the hydrogen is reacted with nitrogen to produce ammonia.  The other, mirror-image, concept is to use ammonia, or hydrogen derived from ammonia, as a fuel that can be turned into electricity.

This “back-end” use case is the focus of recent announcements from Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS).  According to an April 5 story in the Nikkei Sangyo, MHPS plans to put a “hydrogen-dedicated gas turbine . . . into practical use by 2030.”  The company also stated that it has “started developing technology to extract hydrogen from ammonia,” citing ammonia’s ease “to store and transport.”

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Battolyser B.V. Formed in the Netherlands

Proton Ventures and Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), both of the Netherlands, announced in early February the formation of a new company, Battolyser B.V.  The company’s initial goal is to build and demonstrate a pilot version of the eponymous technology that stores electricity and produces hydrogen.  Hans Vrijenhoef, who will direct the new company, indicated that a fully realized system would include an ammonia production train so that the hydrogen could be stored and transported at low cost.  Vrijenhoef is already the Director of Proton Ventures B.V., a member of the NH3 Fuel Association’s Global Federation Advisory Board, and the originator of the NH3 Event power-to-ammonia conference.

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Pilot project: an ammonia tanker fueled by its own cargo

Last month, an important new consortium in the Netherlands announced its intention to research and demonstrate "the technical feasibility and cost effectiveness of an ammonia tanker fuelled by its own cargo." This two-year project will begin with theoretical and laboratory studies, and it will conclude with a pilot-scale demonstration of zero-emission marine propulsion using ammonia fuel in either an internal combustion engine or a fuel cell.

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Full program announced for the 2018 NH3 Event Europe

The second annual European Conference on Sustainable Ammonia Solutions has announced its full program, spread over two days, May 17 and 18, 2018, at Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands. The international cadre of speakers, representing a dozen countries from across Europe as well as the US, Canada, Israel, and Japan, will describe global developments in ammonia energy from the perspectives of industry, academia, and government agencies.

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The capital intensity of small-scale ammonia plants

The list of investment drivers for building new ammonia plants in the US over the last few years was short, beginning and ending with cheap natural gas. Markets change, however, and the investment drivers for the next generation of new ammonia plants might include low cost electrolyzers, low cost renewable power, carbon taxes, and global demand for ammonia as a carbon-free energy vector.

For this to make sense, however, ammonia needs to be produced without fossil fuel inputs. This is perfectly possible using Haber-Bosch technology with electrolyzers, but today's wind and solar power plants exist on a smaller scale than could support a standard (very big) Haber-Bosch plant. So, to produce renewable ammonia, small-scale ammonia production is essential.

This time series chart shows the capital intensity of today’s ammonia plants. Together, the data illustrate competitive advantages of alternative investment strategies, and demonstrate a shift away from the prior trend toward (and received wisdom of) monolithic mega-plants that rely on a natural gas feedstock.

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Green ammonia demonstration plant in The Netherlands

Last month, a heavyweight consortium of local and global companies announced plans to collaborate on a project to design, build, operate, and evaluate a demonstration plant to produce "green ammonia" from water, air, and renewable energy in The Netherlands.

This is one practical outcome of last year's Power-to-Ammonia study, which examined the economic and technical feasibility of using tidal power off the island of Goeree-Overflakkee in Zuid-Holland to power a 25 MWe electrolyzer unit, and feed renewable hydrogen to a 20,000 ton per year green ammonia plant.

This new demonstration plant phase of the project will still be led by the original developer, Dutch mini-ammonia plant developer Proton Ventures. However, its partners in the venture now include Yara and Siemens, as well as speciality fertilizer producer Van Iperen, and local sustainable agricultural producer, the Van Peperstraten Groep.

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2nd European Sustainable Ammonia Conference Announced

Last month the NH3 event Europe Foundation released a “call for papers” for the 2nd European Conference on Sustainable Ammonia Solutions.  The conference will take place in Rotterdam on May 17 and 18, 2018, almost exactly a year after the 1st Conference.

This is further fulfillment of a vision articulated by Hans Vrijenhoef, Managing Director of Proton Ventures in the Netherlands, during the formation of the NH3 Fuel Association’s Global Ammonia Energy Federation (GAEF) in 2016.  In Vrijenhoef’s view, the rising level of activity and interest in ammonia energy created a compelling opportunity and need for a European conference.

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Renewable Hydrogen in Fukushima and a Bridge to the Future

On August 1, 2017 the Japan Government’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) announced that it will proceed with funding for the construction of a hydrogen production plant in Namie Township, about ten kilometers from the site of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.  The project’s budget is not mentioned, but the installation is projected to be “the largest scale in the world” -- in other words, a real bridge to the future and not a demonstration project. 

The project no doubt has a variety of motivations, not least the symbolic value of a renewable hydrogen plant rising in the shadow of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station.  In economic terms, though, it appears to be a dead end.  This is unfortunate because a similarly conceived project based on ammonia could be a true bridge-building step that aligns with leading-edge developments elsewhere in the world.

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Power-to-Ammonia: the Economic Viability of Ammonia Energy

In the last 12 months ...
The extensive Power-to-Ammonia feasibility study demonstrated that ammonia energy could be economically viable in different business cases. The report was a collaborative effort by large European corporations - power companies, electricity distributors, chemical producers, engineering firms - and it has already resulted in plans for one 440 MW power plant to be converted to carbon-free fuel by 2023.

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The Maritime Industry Begins Assessment of Ammonia as a Fuel

In the last 12 months ...
The maritime industry has begun assessing ammonia as a carbon-free fuel, for internal combustion engines and fuel cells. This marks the first time since the 1960s, when NASA used ammonia to fuel the X-15 rocket plane, that industry players have seriously considered ammonia for transport applications.

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