Ammonia for energy storage: economic and technical analysis

Developers around the world are looking at using ammonia as a form of energy storage, essentially turning an ammonia storage tank into a very large chemical battery.

In the UK, Siemens is building an “all electric ammonia synthesis and energy storage system.” In the Netherlands, Nuon is studying the feasibility of using Power-to-Ammonia “to convert high amounts of excess renewable power into ammonia, store it and burn it when renewable power supply is insufficient.”

While results from Siemens could be available in 2018, it might be 2021 before we see results from Nuon, whose “demonstration facility is planned to be completed in five years.” But, while we wait for these real-world industrial data, the academic literature has just been updated with a significant new study on the design and performance of a grid-scale ammonia energy storage system.

Click to enlarge. Marquardt et al: Conceptual Design of Ammonia-Based Energy Storage System: System Design and Time-Invariant Performance, AIChE Journal 01/28/2017
This new study, published in the January 2017 AIChE Journal by researchers from RWTH Aachen University and JARA-ENERGY, examines ammonia energy storage “for integrating intermittent renewables on the utility scale.”

The German paper represents an important advance on previous studies because its analysis is based on advanced energy technologies with a focus on process integration. As such, it demonstrates what ammonia can realistically achieve in the near future, not just what it was constrained to do in the past. It complements another recent study by researchers from Israel, which I discuss below, and completely updates the results published by Oxford University in 2015, which ignored the synergies of process integration.

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