Great Strides in NH3 Commitment and Progress in Australia

In the last 12 months …

Ammonia Energy has published posts covering pertinent activity in 32 different countries. In most of them, ammonia’s potential as a versatile energy vector has reached the point of avowed institutional interest.  In a small handful, it has become a part of national policy.  But, as demonstrated in repeated instances throughout the year, nowhere is ammonia energy more robustly embraced than Australia.  The central argument behind this assertion is captured in the phrase, “the complete package,” as in “package of endowments, policies, players, partners, and investments.”

In terms of endowments, Australia is able to build on its success as an exporter of energy commodities.  On the supply side, the country’s abundant, high-quality solar and wind resources hold the promise of advantaged production of green energy.  On the demand side, Japan, already the largest customer for Australian coal and natural gas, has articulated an intention to ramp up green ammonia imports to three million tonnes per year by 2030.

In terms of governmental policy, a variety of state and federal agencies are taking steps that will lead to enunciation of formal measures to develop a hydrogen economy, with the stated expectation that ammonia will be a part thereof.  Illustrative is the process of the Council of Australian Governments (“the peak intergovernmental forum in Australia”) which, according to a press release, accepted a report from Australian Chief Scientist Alan Finkel in August and directed him to bring “a proposal for the development of a national hydrogen strategy to its December 2018 meeting.”

In terms of technology development, at least three institutions have active R&D programs in ammonia energy.  The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has a multifaceted program which includes but is not limited to the high-purity ammonia-to-hydrogen conversion technology that was successfully demonstrated in August.  Monash University Professor Doug MacFarlane’s Ionic Liquids Group is developing a method for synthesizing ammonia at ambient temperature and pressure.  The Australian Renewable Energy Agency announced in September its first round of funding for “research into the hydrogen energy supply chain.”  The grant package, totaling AUD$22.1 million (USD$15.8 million), included AUD$2.1 million for the CSIRO and Monash programs.  And the University of Western Australia announced in October 2017 a technology partnership with Shenhua Group, China’s largest hydrogen company, aimed at the development of ammonia-powered vehicles and ammonia-based hydrogen production facilities.

In terms of business development, at least two companies have been launched in recent years with a focus on renewable hydrogen.  Per its Web site, The Hydrogen Utility “is a specialist developer of hydrogen infrastructure solutions for sustainable mobility and renewable energy storage applications.”  Renewable Hydrogen Pty. Ltd. and its sister company Australian Renewable Ammonia Export Marketing are also engaged in the development of large-scale hydrogen projects.  Both companies consider ammonia to be a core part of their business model.  An electrolytic hydrogen project announced by The Hydrogen Utility in February is slated to include a module that produces green ammonia at the rate of 50 tons per day.

In the meantime, Yara, the world’s largest fertilizer producer and an industry member of the Ammonia Energy Association, is investigating the possibility of integrating renewable hydrogen production at its Pilbara plant in Western Australia.  Woodside Petroleum, “Australia’s largest independent oil and gas company,” is investigating ammonia as a potential energy carrier as part of its evaluation of business opportunities in the hydrogen space.  And in December 2017, ITM Power, a British supplier of hydrogen production, fuel and energy systems, established an Australian subsidiary “to develop the market for ITM Power’s rapid response electrolyser technology,” according to a company press release.

Knitting all of the pieces together from an advocacy perspective is the Australian NH3 Fuel Association (NH3FA.Oz).  With participation from stakeholders drawn from industry, academia, and government, the group is coming into its own as a forum for communications within and beyond the ammonia energy community and facilitation of beneficial activities.  At its one-year anniversary meeting in August, the agenda included perspectives from member companies, results of technical research, recent government actions, and relationship-building activities with Australian and international stakeholders.

Every country will travel its own path of ammonia energy development based on its own unique set of attributes.  For many, the Australian experience will not be relevant.  But for others, one hopes, it will serve as a template for the systematic development of ammonia as a sustainable energy commodity.

Ammonia Energy reporting on this topic since last year

A year in review
To mark the second anniversary of Ammonia Energy, we are reviewing the most important stories from the last 12 months. This “top ten” list spans two areas: five are significant advances that build on activities that were already underway in 2017, and five are new developments that emerged decisively this year.

Significant advances:

New developments:

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