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Series Presents Japanese Perspective on Ammonia as a CO2-Free Fuel

From 2014 to 2018, I served as Deputy Program Director of SIP “Energy Carriers” under Mr. Shigeru Muraki, Program Director, and alongside my fellow Deputy Program Director, Dr. Ken-ichi Aika. After helping to bring the Energy Carriers' work to a successful conclusion, I decided to write a series of articles that describe prospects for ammonia as a CO2-free fuel and hydrogen carrier, as well as activities to construct a value chain of CO2-free ammonia. The articles were published in the on-line journal of Japan’s International Environment and Economy Institute (IEEI).

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Hyundai joins Fortescue and CSIRO to “fast track” ammonia to high-purity hydrogen system

Fortescue recently announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Hyundai Motor Company and CSIRO for the “development and future commercialisation” of its metal membrane technology. This technology, which produces high-purity compressed hydrogen from liquid ammonia, was demonstrated in 2018. It enables PEM fuel cell vehicles to refuel using hydrogen that is generated on demand from ammonia. At scale, this technology could enable an ammonia-based hydrogen production, storage, and distribution infrastructure, lowering the barriers to implementation of a national network of hydrogen filling stations. Now, “Hyundai will seek to demonstrate the viability of the technology for renewable hydrogen production and vehicle fuelling in Korea.”

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EPRI, GTI Launch Low-Carbon Initiative

Last month the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Gas Technology Institute (GTI) announced a new undertaking: the Low-Carbon Resources Initiative (LCRI). According to the organizations’ press release, over the next five years they will work together and with collaborating companies to “accelerate the development and demonstration of low-carbon energy technologies.”

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Haldor Topsøe and Partners Issue Ammonfuel Report

Earlier this month Haldor Topsoe and four partners issued Ammonfuel - an industrial view of ammonia as marine fuel. According to the accompanying press release, the 59-page report provides “a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of the applicability, scalability, cost, and sustainability of ammonia as a marine fuel.” The partners include Vestas, Siemens Gamesa, Hafnia, and Alfa Laval.

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Zero emission aircraft: ammonia for aviation

This week, Reaction Engines announced a “ground-breaking study” on ammonia as a fuel for zero-emission aircraft. This will soon be followed by a demonstration project, “integrating the technology into a ground-based test engine.” The study combines Reaction Engines’ heat exchanger technology with the ammonia cracking technology being developed by the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). By partially cracking green ammonia to hydrogen, the resulting ammonia fuel mix “mimics jet fuel,” making it possible to adapt existing engines and aircraft to use zero-emission fuels. “This means a fast transition to a sustainable aviation future is possible at low cost.”

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Hazard identification, feedback loops, risk tolerance

There are many lessons to be drawn from the explosion in Beirut last week. Perhaps the most important is that we, as a society, always have a choice: to learn from our mistakes, or to repeat them. We can debate the root cause and find individuals and systems at fault — and we must do these things — but if we don’t make use of those learnings, and change our future behavior, we’ll have missed the point. As one commentator put it, the cause of the Beirut explosion was clear-cut: “Once again, society not learning from its own mistakes. For hundreds of years, there have been situations where too much ammonium nitrate has been kept in the same place at the same time.”

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Hydrogen Stands Out in BP’s New Strategy

Last week oil major BP released its second quarter financial results – and used the occasion to share the company’s new strategy. “We aim to be a very different kind of energy company by 2030,” the company said, “as we scale up investment in low-carbon, focus our oil and gas production and make headway on reducing emissions.” “Investment in low-carbon” turns out to involve full embrace of the hydrogen paradigm circa 2020: power-to-gas; carbon capture, utilization, and storage; and the possibility of a “hydrogen export” business based on ammonia.

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Green ammonia at oil and gas scale: the 15 GW Asian Renewable Energy Hub

The Asian Renewable Energy Hub will be a 6,500 square kilometer wind and solar farm in Australia's Pilbara desert, producing green ammonia for export beginning in 2027/28. This was recently reported as an investment of AU$ 22 billion (US$ 16 billion). As it says on its website, this is "renewable energy at oil and gas scale." Details recently entered the public domain regarding the project's upstream segment (power generation). Now, its downstream segment (green ammonia production) is coming into focus as well. InterContinental Energy, one of the project backers, represents the Asian Renewable Energy Hub as just one project within its $100+ billion, 50 million ton per year, green ammonia and green methanol production portfolio: "the largest and most advanced portfolio of green hydrogen projects worldwide."

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AEA Australia Announces 2020 Conference

Pandemic or no pandemic, the Australian chapter of the Ammonia Energy Association (AEA Australia) will hold a second edition of its Ammonia = Hydrogen 2.0 Conference this year. The event will be held on a virtual basis on August 27 and 28 from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. (Australian Eastern Standard Time) each day. The conference tagline is “Building an energy export industry using Green Ammonia.” Its themes this year will be “green ammonia production — jobs for the regions;” “ammonia as maritime bunker fuel;” and “ammonia certification schemes.” The opening address, entitled “Ammonia — is it a fuel, or is it an energy carrier?” will be given by Alan Finkel, Chief Scientist of the Australian Government.

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Solar ammonia, available in Spain from 2021

Last week, Iberdrola and Fertiberia announced plans to start producing green ammonia for “fertilizantes libres de emisiones” (emission-free fertilizers). Iberdrola will invest EUR 150 million to build the 100 MW “Puertollano II” solar field, with a 20 MW electrolyzer bank to produce renewable hydrogen. Fertiberia will “update and modify” its existing Puertollano plant to consume this green hydrogen, reducing its natural gas use by “over 10%,” and producing green ammonia beginning in 2021.