Last week the International Energy Agency released The Future of Hydrogen, a 203-page report that “provides an extensive and independent assessment of hydrogen that lays out where things stand now; the ways in which hydrogen can help to achieve a clean, secure and affordable energy future; and how we can go about realising its potential.” In this, the first part of a two-part article, the report's overall strengths are considered. The second part will focus on the report's discussion of ammonia as a contributor to the emerging hydrogen economy.
NEWS BRIEF: The industrial process for ammonia production is increasingly being recognized as a target for decarbonization - by researchers, investors, regulators, and the producers themselves. Demonstrating this shift in awareness, Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN), one of the flagship publications of the American Chemical Society (ACS), this week published an in-depth review of global research and development efforts and demonstration plants for sustainable ammonia synthesis. Its review is all-encompassing, from near-term feasible renewable Haber-Bosch plants, to long-term research areas of electrochemistry, photocatalysis, and bioengineering.
This week, Hydrofuel Inc announced a commercial demonstration project to convert diesel gensets and transport trucks to run on ammonia fuel, with the conversion work and dual-fuel operations scheduled for a three year period.
The CAD $2 million (USD $1.5 million) project will take place at TFX International, in Toronto, and involves the conversion of four existing diesel-fueled assets: two stationary power generators and two transport trucks. These will be converted using Hydrofuel's "aftermarket multi-fuels engine retrofit systems," and they will thereafter be able to operate on a dual fuel basis.
ANNOUNCEMENT: The Australian chapter of the Ammonia Energy Association (AEA Australia) has announced details of its inaugural conference, which will take place on August 22 and 23, 2019, and will be held at CSIRO in Clayton, Victoria.
Entitled "Ammonia = Hydrogen 2.0," the conference will focus on the role of ammonia within the Australian hydrogen economy, specifically "Building an energy export industry using Green Ammonia." In addition to a full program of talks by invited speakers, networking events will include panel discussions, a poster session, and the conference dinner. Registration for the event is now open, with an early booking discount available until July 5.
Last week Wärtsilä, the Finnish engine and energy equipment manufacturer, unveiled a concept for producing and distributing low-carbon maritime fuels from purpose-built facilities in the waters off northern Europe. Dubbed Zero Emission Energy Distribution at Sea (ZEEDS), the initiative is intended to help meet the International Maritime Organization’s target of halving the shipping sector's carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. And although Wärtsilä’s press release on June 3 mentions only “clean fuels,” the headline used by logistics-sector publisher Freight Week for their June 5 story is “Offshore fuel hubs to supply green ammonia for zero-emission future.”
AFC Energy PLC, the British fuel cell company, announced on May 20 the successful conclusion of “ammonia to power (‘A2P’) fuel cell generator trials.” The result is “proof of concept” for a system consisting of an "off the shelf" ammonia cracker and a proprietary alkaline fuel cell that can readily utilize hydrogen with residual quantities of uncracked ammonia. The achievement positions AFC “to conclude work on the business case and engineering of an integrated, scalable ammonia fuelled clean power generator.”
In May, the Environmental Defense Fund published Sailing on Solar, a significant new report that assesses the potential for green ammonia to be used as a maritime fuel, reducing the global shipping industry's carbon emissions.
Its 60-page techno-economic analysis concludes that "green ammonia can – indeed should – be adopted as a greenhouse gas-free fuel more easily, quickly and safely than people may assume." Indeed, Sailing on Solar estimates that, to meet decarbonization targets, ammonia will need to start being adopted in ships "during the 2020s."
Last week IEA Consultant Julien Armijo and IEA Senior Analyst Cédric Philibert submitted their study Flexible Production of Green Hydrogen and Ammonia from Variable Solar and Wind Energy: Case Study of Chile and Argentina to the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy and concurrently posted it on ResearchGate. The study addresses one of the key questions of the energy transition: what are the economics of producing hydrogen, or a hydrogen carrier such as ammonia, at sites with excellent renewable energy resources? The answer, framed in terms of the cost-competitiveness in local markets of green ammonia vs. conventionally produced brown ammonia, casts an encouraging light on the eventual prospects for international trade in green ammonia as an energy commodity.
NEWS BRIEF: A paper published this week in Nature addresses the challenge of accurately reporting synthesis rates for electrochemical ammonia production technologies. According to the authors, from Stanford University, the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), and Imperial College London, it is not always clear if new technologies really synthesize ammonia, or if the researchers simply measured contaminants. This is because, at experimental scale, materially significant amounts of ammonia (or other nitrogen-containing molecules) could be present in the air, membranes, catalysts, or simply the researchers' breath. To support the development of viable electrochemical ammonia synthesis technologies, the authors propose "benchmarking protocols," and "a standardized set of control experiments."
This year's ammonia conference in Rotterdam, the third annual NH3 Event, begins two weeks from today. Since our guest post in March, announcing the initial roster of conference speakers, the organizers have confirmed new speakers, added more sessions, and announced further details.
The NH3 Event is a two-day conference, taking place on June 6 & 7, presenting "state of the art solutions and innovations on the subject of Sustainable Ammonia." Although the conference hall is already close to capacity, a few dozen tickets remain available through the NH3 Event website.