Decarbonising Maritime Transport: OECD report sees ammonia fuel enabling carbon-free shipping by 2035

Twelve months ago, I wrote here that "the shipping industry is beginning to evaluate ammonia as a potential 'bunker fuel,' a carbon-free alternative to the heavy fuel oil (HFO) used in maritime transport." Around that time, I described the obstacle to adoption of ammonia fuel as an information gap, rather than a technology gap, because no new technology was required: the industry simply did not know about ammonia. This information gap had allowed the industry to believe that "CO2 reduction objectives will only be achievable with alternative marine fuels which do not yet exist." I'm glad to announce that this information gap is closing, and fast.

According to a report published last week by the International Transport Forum, the OECD's "think tank for transport policy," the use of "currently known technologies could make it possible to almost completely decarbonise maritime shipping by 2035." This conclusion requires the adoption of ammonia as a zero-carbon fuel.

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Yara’s N-Tech Platform: Making Strides with Green Ammonia

Yara International, one of the world’s largest ammonia producers, is making strides in its development of green ammonia as a fertilizer, chemical intermediate, and energy carrier.  The progress is documented in the company’s 2017 annual report, released last week, and in more detail in a presentation delivered in late February at the 2018 Nitrogen + Syngas Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden.

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NH3 Fuel Conference to Take New Format in 2018

The NH3 Fuel Association has exciting plans for the 15th annual NH3 Fuel Conference!

Our 2018 offering will have much in common with the 2017 edition, but will also embody significant departures. As was the case in 2017, our annual event will be held over two days, scheduled in alignment with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Annual Meeting. The key difference for 2018 is that it won’t be a single two-day conference; rather it will take the form of two separate conferences held on consecutive days. 

On October 31, we will host the NH3 Energy+ Topical Conference within the AIChE Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And on the next day, November 1, we will present the inaugural NH3 Energy Implementation Conference, also in Pittsburgh albeit at a separate venue.

The Topical Conference’s call for abstracts is now open and interested parties can submit their abstracts through the AIChE Web site.

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Ammonia technology portfolio: optimize for energy efficiency and carbon efficiency

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of speaking at the International Fertilizer Association's (IFA) conference on the subject of Innovations in Ammonia. A key point was the benefit of technology diversification: as with any portfolio, whether an investment account or a global industry's range of available technologies, concentration in any area represents risk, and diversification represents resiliency. Unfortunately, the ammonia industry has grown highly concentrated, and its dependency upon one technology and one feedstock represents significant risk in tomorrow's markets.

This article features five charts that aim to demonstrate why energy efficiency is insufficient as the only measure of technology improvement, why it is better to optimize instead of maximize, and why market evolution is necessary to support investment decisions in sustainable ammonia synthesis technologies.

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Renewable ammonia energy, harvesting large-scale wind

A chemicals technology firm in Belgium recently launched its vision for using green ammonia for "energy harvesting." The Dualtower is a new kind of wind turbine, under development by Arranged BVBA, that will use wind power to produce and also store hydrogen and nitrogen. These gases are "harvested" as ammonia, which becomes the energy carrier that allows large-scale renewable energy to be transported economically from remote locations with excellent renewable resources to centers of power consumption.

Arranged's Dualtower is ambitious and, perhaps, futuristic but it illustrates three powerful concepts. First, the vast untapped scalability of renewable power. Second, the benefits of using ammonia as an energy carrier, to improve the economics of large-scale, long-distance energy transportation relative to every other low-carbon technology. The third concept is simply that every idea has its time, and now may be the time for ammonia energy. What was once futuristic, now just makes sense.

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On the Ground in Japan: Hydrogen Activity Accelerates

A recent Ammonia Energy post mentioned that in December 2017 “the Japanese government . . . approved an updated hydrogen strategy which appears to give ammonia the inside track in the race against liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid organic hydride (LOH) energy carrier systems.”  While this news is positive, the hydrogen strategy remains the essential context for economic implementation of ammonia energy technologies in Japan; ammonia’s prospects are only as bright as those of hydrogen.  This is why Ammonia Energy asks from time to time, how is hydrogen faring in Japan?

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Ammonia Flash Cracking and Energy Development in Southern Africa

New ammonia production capacity is being built in southern Africa. The outputs will support agricultural development in the region – but could also support development of ammonia as a universal energy commodity. A British start-up company is currently at work to develop a beachhead use case for ammonia energy.

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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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Importance of Public Perception towards an Ammonia Economy

During development of the technical aspects of any energy project, a social perspective needs to be considered. Public opinion is going to be a fundamental parameter to determine the role of renewables in the future, with decarbonisation meaning innovation towards a comprehensive plan that involves not only technology but also psychology and how these two can benefit from each other.

Due to the importance of understanding public perception of ammonia, Cardiff University conducted a study focused on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, which currently presents high revenues in agriculture and depends on ammonia as a fertiliser. An analysis of stakeholder’s perception of ammonia was carried out to understand the different barriers and drivers of each established group.

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