Reaction Engines, IP Group, and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) launched a new joint venture this week at COP26 in Glasgow. The group will design and commercialise lightweight, modular ammonia cracking reactors to enable the use of ammonia in hard-to-decarbonise sectors, particularly aviation, shipping and off-grid power generation applications.
The design will feature Reaction Engines’ heat exchanger technology developed for its SABRE™ air-breathing rocket engine. In this setup, exhaust heat is utilised to partially crack ammonia back into a fuel blend that “mimics” jet fuel. STFC will lead development of the cracking catalyst, with funding to be provided by IP Group.
Dr James Barth, Ammonia Programme Lead, Reaction Engines, said:
“I am thrilled to see the hard work we’ve been undertaking with our partners at STFC culminate in the formation of a new joint venture to bring to market decarbonisation technology solutions. Having IP Group’s backing for Reaction Engines’ first commercial spin-out is a huge vote of confidence
Professor Bill David FRS, STFC Senior Fellow and Professor of Energy Materials Chemistry at the University of Oxford, said:
“After completing STFC funded proof-of-concept projects, I am excited about the impact that our technology can have in enabling low-impact transitions in hard-to-abate energy sectors. Playing to the complementary strengths of ammonia and hydrogen, our cracker technology can rely on the global ammonia infrastructure to provide, at scale, blended ammonia-hydrogen fuels that mimic fossil fuel performance and offer affordable retrofitted energy solutions.”Reaction Engines’ official press release, 5 Nov 2021
Cracking units currently under development
The development of modular, turnkey, safe ammonia cracking units that can be “plugged in” to a wide variety of applications is absolutely key to realising the full potential of ammonia and hydrogen energy. We’ve seen a number of terrific updates in the last twelve months:
- GenCell Energy’s off-grid power generation system was successfully field-tested in Iceland.
- H2SITE installed the first two of their membrane-based cracking reactors in France.
- KIER successfully demonstrated ultra-pure hydrogen production (43kg per day) in an integrated fuel cell setup, with tests currently running to demonstrate 2 tonnes per day hydrogen production.
- thyssenkrupp announced Uhde would be developing a large-scale (but flexible) cracking technology solution to compliment its current ammonia production technologies.
- Uniper’s Wilhelmshaven “climate-friendly” hydrogen hub will feature a cracking facility large enough to produce 295,000 tonnes hydrogen per year, or 10% of Germany’s predicted demand for 2030.
And just this week at our Ammonia Energy Conference in Boston, we heard updates from four crucial players:
- Starfire Energy, who are developing the new “Prometheus” cracking system.
- Haldor Topsoe, who are developing a suite of efficient cracking catalysts and systems.
- Syzygy Plasmonics, who introduced their novel, photocatalytic cracking process.
- and H2SITE, who gave us on update on their installed systems in France.