Communique from the AEA Australia 2020 conference

AEA Australia’s second annual Ammonia = Hydrogen 2.0 conference took place at the end of August, hosted virtually by Monash University with the support of CSIRO.

As the conference title implies, our annual event focuses on ammonia’s role in a hydrogen economy. Ammonia, a hydrogen-dense carbon-free molecule, makes it possible for us to “bottle solar” — for Australian renewable energy to be transported across markets and transformed into fuels.

Alan Finkel, Australia’s Chief Scientist, gave the opening address, “Ammonia — is it a fuel, or is it an energy carrier?” The conference keynote speech was given by Rob Stevens of Yara, entitled “The role of Ammonia in a hydrogen economy.”

Building an Energy Export Industry using Green Ammonia

The overall theme of the conference was “Building an Energy Export Industry using Green Ammonia,” and the conference developed this theme by focusing sessions around three key topics:

  • Jobs for the regions,
  • Ammonia as marine fuel, and
  • Ammonia certification.

Following the technical presentations, poster session, panel discussions, and a very successful mixer session, the online audience engaged in a broad town-hall discussion that raised the following themes.

Energy Security

Building a green ammonia manufacturing capability in Australia will be important to help ensure domestic energy security. Joint energy security arrangements using green ammonia could also be achievable with a number of countries, including Japan and Singapore.

National Approach

It is becoming clear that the international market for ammonia energy and fuel is likely to grow exponentially in the medium term. A national approach is desirable if Australia is to take full advantage of these new markets, requiring government and industry cooperation.

This creates a clear and immediate opportunity for AEA Australia to ramp up its promotion and advocacy activities to meet this need.

Comments from the conference floor illustrated some of the areas of greatest interest:

  • Strengthening our engagement with Japan’s Green Ammonia Consortium.
  • Building industry partnerships across the whole value chain, and sharing responsibility for growing the market.
  • Differentiating between ammonia and hydrogen for government.

Training

The following organizations who were represented at the conference expressed their desire to cooperate in developing safety training courses for mariners on ships powered by ammonia:

  • Australian Maritime College (AMC) of the University of Tasmania (UTAS)
  • Ammonia Safety & Training Institute (ASTI)
  • American Bureau of Shipping (ABS)

These training courses would need to be accredited by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), and will need to include bunkering procedures as well as for seafarers when underway.

Research & Development

Australia could focus on pulling together a co-operative research (virtual) centre of excellence devoted to developing the most efficient and cost effective ways to produce green ammonia. Industry and government could jointly fund this and enable it to avoid duplicated effort and competition whilst engendering more collaboration and coordination. Finding a home for this centre will be critical.

Comments from the floor about the potential for an R&D centre of excellence included the following:

  • There is already a lot of research going on at many organizations including CSIRO, Monash, University of Wollongong, ANU, etc.
  • It could help bring industries together across the supply chain.
  • It could foster greater research cooperation with international groups.
  • ARENA could be a key funding agency for this space going forward.
  • Decarbonisation of heavy industry is a key opportunity within Australia.
  • A range of ammonia production technologies could be supported. 

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