Green ammonia plant proposed for Orkney

Eneus Energy recently announced that it intends to build a green ammonia plant in Orkney, Scotland. Eneus describes itself as a “project developer and technology integrator for green ammonia,” and this announcement marks the first public disclosure of a site from its “portfolio” of projects under development.

Click to enlarge. Hammars Hill Energy website, Extending the Operational Life of the Project through expansion, May 7, 2020

Orkney has been a net energy exporter since 2013, with wind, tidal, and wave energy generation far exceeding local demand; the islands have also been producing green hydrogen for some years.

If this latest project moves ahead, the 11 ton per day green ammonia plant would be powered by two new wind turbines, each of 4.2 MW capacity, expanding the existing Hammars Hill wind farm and providing the island with a scalable solution for renewable energy storage and distribution that does not require grid transmission.

This business case was well articulated in the local newspapers:

Morag Watson, Director of Policy at Scottish Renewables, said: “Scotland’s island communities have an abundance of natural resource for generating renewable energy, but unfortunately grid capacity constraints often mean that renewable energy generators have to limit production.

“Although at a relatively early stage of development, hydrogen and possibly ammonia will play a role in our future low-carbon energy system.

“Orkney is already leading the way in the production of hydrogen from renewable electricity such as wind and tidal power, which is exciting as it allows us to utilise a clean energy resource in a way which doesn’t rely on the transmission network.”

The Press and Journal, Orkney site chosen for wind-powered hydrogen plant, May 16, 2020

This 11 ton per day green ammonia plant is not a pilot or a demonstration project; it is a full-size, small-scale commercial venture. As described on its website, Eneus Energy “integrates existing, proven industrial technologies.” The innovation here is the business model.

According to Eneus’s announcement, the green hydrogen and ammonia production plant will enable Orkney to “work in new markets with existing fuel suppliers on the islands.”

Eneus Energy has been working closely with local wind development company Hammars Hill Energy Ltd. Eneus’ facility will turn electricity, water and air into ammonia (NH3) without releasing carbon emissions …

Eneus CEO Chris Bronsdon commented: “Orkney is an ideal location to kick off Eneus’ first UK project and contribute to growing the hydrogen economy with local partners.

“As an effective form of hydrogen storage, ammonia provides an ideal opportunity to support the islands’ decarbonisation agenda as it can be produced locally, and then stored, or used directly for power or heating purposes. The process to form green ammonia can also be reversed, which enables the supply of hydrogen for use in fuel cells, including ferries.”

Eneus Energy announcement, ENEUS ENERGY CONFIRMS ORKNEY ISLANDS FOR FIRST GREEN AMMONIA PROJECT, April 28, 2020

Eneus is supported in this project by Green Cat Renewables, which will be providing “technical support and project management services.” Exactly a year ago, Green Cat announced its “significant, and strategic, investment in the green hydrogen energy supply business, Eneus,” to “help develop a pipeline of ammonia production sites that will be powered by renewable energy.”

At that time, Green Cat Director Gavin Catto said:

“This is a significant strategic move for Green Cat. We have realised for some time that decarbonising the world is going to require a more joined up approach than simply putting wind turbines on every hill top.

“Projects like this, where renewable energy is converted to hydrogen, where it can be used for road transport and/or heating decoupling generation from use are important.

“These projects will also have the flexibility to provide grid balancing services, turning renewables from being a burden to the network, to actually reducing the strain on the network – a real win-win situation.”

Green Cat Renewables announcement, GREEN CAT RENEWABLES INVEST IN GREEN HYDROGEN SUPPLY BUSINESS, ENEUS, May 14, 2019

Although not mentioned in the Orkney announcement, these “grid balancing services” represent another market for Eneus’s green ammonia business, in addition to storage and distribution of renewable energy, and use of hydrogen and/or ammonia as fuel. As disclosed this week to ReNews, Eneus, with assistance of Green Cat, has developed engineering and selected plant components “that work with variable generation sources and provide a flexible load response to the grid where appropriate.”

Eneus’s first project in Orkney is certainly small-scale, but other projects in its portfolio are much larger, according to its CEO, Chris Bronsdon, who was quoted in the ReNews article:

“The project site on Orkney is at the smaller end of what we are doing. In North America, we have got a portfolio of sites that we are discussing with a range of investors and some of those are significantly larger but also include discussions about the acquisition of the renewable energy source as well.

“Where you can produce and use hydrogen in-situ or inject it into gas grids that is the best opportunity but as soon as you need to store or transport the hydrogen, ammonia is a far more competitive solution.”

Eneus Energy CEO Chris Bronsdon, quoted in ReNews, May 2020
Click to visit. Eneus Energy, The green ammonia landscape, website accessed May 2020
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