Article

US DOE funding research into sustainable ammonia synthesis

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is currently supporting six fundamental research projects that will develop "novel catalysts and mechanisms for nitrogen activation," which it hopes will lead to future sustainable ammonia synthesis technologies. These projects, announced in August 2016 and administered by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences, aim "to investigate some of the outstanding scientific questions in the synthesis of ammonia (NH3) from nitrogen (N2) using processes that do not generate greenhouse gases."

Article

Methane to Ammonia via Pyrolysis

Eric McFarland, Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of California Santa Barbara, likes fossil fuels and nuclear energy and is unimpressed by the menu of renewable energy technologies.  But he is worried about climate change and he has an original view on how to modify our current energy system so that we don’t overload the atmosphere with CO2.  He believes the key will be to separate fossil hydrocarbons into gaseous hydrogen and solid carbon.  The chemistry he is developing in this area involves transferring “electrochemical potential” from hydrocarbons to alternative energy carriers.  Ammonia is an energy carrier that McFarland believes is especially promising.

Article

Hydrogen Council – new global initiative launched at Davos

This week, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the leaders of 13 global companies, representing more than EUR 1 trillion in annual revenues, announced the launch of the Hydrogen Council. This new global initiative is important for obvious reasons: it presents a compelling "united vision and long-term ambition" for hydrogen, it promises global engagement with "key stakeholders such as policy makers, business and hydrogen players, international agencies and civil society," and it pledges financial commitments to RD&D totaling EUR 10 billion over the next five years. It is important for a subtler reason too: it is the first hydrogen industry promotion I've seen that includes ammonia. It includes ammonia both implicitly, encompassing "hydrogen and its compounds," and explicitly, listing ammonia as a "renewable fuel" in its own right.

Article

U.S. EPA’s Toxicological Review of Ammonia

On September 20 last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the release of the IRIS Toxicological Review of Ammonia - Noncancer Inhalation (Final Report). The Interagency Science Discussion Draft of the Ammonia IRIS Assessment and accompanying comments were also released. The report was the culmination of almost five years of work by the EPA and a specially convened Scientific Advisory Board. September 20 also happened to be the day of the Storage and Safety Session at the 2016 NH3 Fuel Conference. This is a striking coincidence because safety is seen as a key barrier to the adoption of ammonia as a sustainable energy carrier, and the report is a substantial contribution to the literature of ammonia safety.

Article

TU Delft’s Battery-Electrolyzer Technology

On December 14, the journal Energy & Environmental Science published an article on a new technology, “Efficient electricity storage with a battolyser, an integrated Ni–Fe battery and electrolyser.” The lead author is Fokko Mulder, Professor of Materials for Energy Conversion & Storage at the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. The system developed by Mulder and his collaborators accepts electricity from an external source and stores it in the conventional manner of all batteries. The twist is that when the battery is fully charged, any additional incoming electricity is used to generate hydrogen and oxygen via electrolysis. The technology may prove to be a valuable element in a grid-scale ammonia-based energy system.

Article

ARPA-E’s vision for carbon neutral liquid fuels

We wrote last month about the US Department of Energy funding ammonia fuel projects through ARPA-E's "REFUEL" program ("Renewable Energy to Fuels through Utilization of Energy-dense Liquids"). Although we introduced the funded projects in both the ammonia synthesis category and the ammonia fuel-use category, the REFUEL project merits further analysis as a whole because it describes a roadmap for the development of ammonia fuel systems, and identifies benchmarks for their commercial success.

Article

Australian solar-ammonia exports to Germany

I recently wrote about a vast future market for merchant ammonia: transporting carbon-free energy from Australia's deserts to Japan's electricity grid. Now, however, it is clear that Japan could face international competition for Australia's solar-ammonia resources. Jeff Connolly, CEO of Siemens Pacific, wrote last month about his ambitions for ammonia as an energy export commodity.

Article

Carbon Pricing and the Economics of Green Ammonia

The United States Senate is expected to open confirmation hearings for Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson on January 11. Tillerson, newly retired from Exxon Mobil, became the chief executive officer of that company in 2006. He has attracted many labels since his nomination was announced, but “climate denier” is not among them.

Article

REFUEL Ammonia Use-Side Funding Awards

Six of the projects designated for funding by the ARPA-E REFUEL announcement on December 15 involve technologies on the use side of the ammonia energy space. Three focus on generating hydrogen from ammonia. Two focus on fuel cells that convert ammonia to electricity. One project involves both ammonia synthesis and use.