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Hydrogen in Australia: investments and jobs

There is so much hydrogen news coming out of Australia that it is hard to keep up. At the state level, Tasmania has released its draft plan to increase renewables to 200% of its electricity use by 2040. This marks a serious start to establishing a renewable energy export economy, and includes funding and policy support to ramp up green hydrogen and ammonia production and begin exports by 2027. At the federal level, ARENA announced that its AU$ 70 million funding round for large-scale, “shovel-ready,” renewable hydrogen projects received applications representing over $3 billion of commercial investments. Australia’s renewable hydrogen industry has appetite and momentum, “and we’re seeing a lot of projects ready to be built.” As if to prove the point, two developers in two weeks have each announced hydrogen projects that could produce a million tons per year of ammonia. These are at opposite ends of the low-carbon spectrum: Leigh Creek Energy's in-situ gasification (ISG) coal-to-ammonia plant; and Austom Hydrogen's 3.6 GW green hydrogen export project.

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AFC Energy to Demonstrate Ammonia-Fueled Gen-Sets in 2021

AFC Energy, the British fuel cell company, announced this week that it will demonstrate its H-Power fuel cell platform in collaboration with Spanish construction firm Acciona Construcción. In an interview with the “financial media portal” Proactive Investors, AFC’s Chief Executive Officer Adam Bond suggested that the collaboration could open the door for the company’s products as temporary power solutions at construction sites, saying “it does present us with some interesting and large opportunities.”

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Industry report sees multi-billion ton market for green ammonia

This week, Argus Media published a white paper on green ammonia. This includes an overview of potential new markets and market volumes, a round-up of green ammonia projects around the world, and an assessment of production technologies and their impact on the ammonia cost curve. Argus estimates that, by 2040, green ammonia could cost just $250 per ton. Argus is an industrial analysis and consulting firm with long experience in the ammonia market, which, traditionally, centers on the fertilizer sector. This white paper therefore provides a welcome commercial perspective on the outlook for ammonia energy.

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Monash team publishes Ammonia Economy Roadmap

Earlier this month, Doug MacFarlane and his team of researchers at Monash University published A Roadmap to the Ammonia Economy in the journal Joule. The paper charts an evolution of ammonia synthesis “through multiple generations of technology development and scale-up.” It provides a clear assessment of “the increasingly diverse range of applications of ammonia as a fuel that is emerging,” and concludes with perspectives on the “broader scale sustainability of an ammonia economy,” with emphasis on the Nitrogen Cycle. The Roadmap is brilliant in its simple distillation of complex and competing technology developments across decades. It assesses the sustainability and scalability of three generations of ammonia synthesis technologies. Put simply, Gen1 is blue ammonia, Gen2 is green ammonia, and Gen3 is electrochemical ammonia. It also outlines the amount of research and development required before each could be broadly adopted (“commercial readiness”). The paper thus provides vital clarity on the role that each generation of technology could play in the energy transition, and the timing at which it could make its impact.

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Ammonia, Hydrogen P2X2P Demonstrations Slated for Europe

At this early point in the energy transition, many groups are formulating big-picture concepts for the design of a sustainable energy economy, and many more are developing discrete technologies that will be relevant as the transition advances. The multi-stakeholder H2020 European project known as “FLEXibilize combined cycle power plant through Power-to-X solutions using non-CONventional Fuels” (FLEXnCONFU) is coming from a different direction. Its premise is that construction of a bridge to the future should start now, and should be anchored in aspects of the current energy system that are likely to endure over the long-term.

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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. 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.

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CSIRO at Work on SOEC Technology

Earlier this month the on-line trade journal gasworld published an interview with CSIRO's Ani Kulkarni that illuminated a research program focused on solid oxide electrolysis technology. The takeaway is that the CSIRO program is making progress that can, in Kulkarni’s words, “elevate this technology from the lab bench to become cost-effective at an industrial scale.”

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Methane splitting and turquoise ammonia

Most hydrogen today is produced from fossil fuels – steam methane reforming of natural gas, partial oxidation of coal or oil residues – and entails large CO2 emissions. This fossil hydrogen can be called “grey hydrogen”. Or sometimes, brown. The same color scheme applies to the ammonia produced from it, so we have “grey ammonia.” Or brown ammonia, your call. The exact carbon footprint depends on the fuel used and the efficiency of the facility, so you could easily identify many shades of grey. There is, however, another option to deliver clean hydrogen – and now another colour: turquoise, or green-blue (or blue-green). This is the colour of hydrogen from methane pyrolysis, a process that directly splits methane into hydrogen and solid carbon. Instead of being a waste, like CO2, that must be disposed of safely, solid carbon is potentially a resource.

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Project GERI: BP’s green ammonia feasibility study

This week, ARENA announced funding for the Geraldton Export-Scale Renewable Investment (GERI) Feasibility Study, led by BP Australia. While this project begins small, with a pilot-scale 20,000 ton per year green ammonia plant selling into domestic markets, it could lead to a 1,000,000 ton per year (1.5 GW capacity), export-oriented green ammonia plant.