RWE: linking ammonia imports to EU consumers by rail

Onward delivery from Brunsbüttel

VTG’s gas rail tank cars, type G86.095C (top left), G86.102D (top right), G86.104D (bottom left) and G86.106D (bottom right). All are optimised for the transport of ammonia. Source: VTG.
Click to learn more. VTG’s gas rail tank cars, type G86.095C (top left), G86.102D (top right), G86.104D (bottom left) and G86.106D (bottom right). All are optimised for the transport of ammonia. Source: VTG.

RWE and global logistics firm VTG will jointly develop a rail distribution network for ammonia imports arriving in Europe. Ammonia will be transported by rail wagon from RWE’s under-development Brunsbüttel terminal to customers in Germany and neighboring countries. VTG’s fleet of over 90,000 rail wagons currently includes four models optimised for the transport of ammonia (see right), each with roughly 100m³ capacity. VTG also has many years of experience transporting ammonia by rail.

Rail transport is advantageous for industrial customers, as no connection to a pipeline or inland port is required. The delivery of ammonia by tank wagon has been an established method for years.

Advantages of ammonia transport by rail, from RWE’s official press release, 13 Feb 2023

In addition to its great importance as a basic material for industry, ammonia will also play an important role in securing energy supplies in the coming decades. It is part of VTG’s New Energies strategy, which aims to provide our customers with the best possible support in the transformation towards sustainable industrial processes. Together with RWE, we want to show that large quantities of ammonia can already be supplied by rail in the short term in a low-emission and competitive manner.

VTG COO (Europe) and Chief Safety Officer Sven Wellbrock in RWE’s official press release, 13 Feb 2023
RWE and VTG will develop a rail distribution network for ammonia imports to Germany, leveraging VTG’s significant experience & exi
Click to enlarge. RWE and VTG will develop a rail distribution network for ammonia imports to Germany, leveraging VTG’s significant experience & existing rail wagon fleet. Source: RWE.

Putting the pieces together at Brunsbüttel

Over the past year, RWE has been steadily securing the necessary elements for ammonia imports to arrive in Germany. Back in April 2021, the idea of ammonia imports to the site was first kicked off by RWE and H2U, with a feasibility study launched.

  • in March 2022, RWE confirmed the ultimate focus of the Brunsbüttel site would be importing “green molecules” like ammonia. An under-construction LNG import terminal would have a neighboring ammonia import terminal built, ready to receive imports as early as 2026.
  • the 2026 timeline was confirmed earlier this year, with Hyphen Hydrogen announcing that RWE had signed an off-take deal for ammonia from Hyphen’s Namibia mega-project. Starting in 2026, 300,000 tonnes of ammonia per year will arrive in Brunsbüttel.
  • and more supply may be on the way, with Lotte, RWE and Mitsubishi exploring mega-scale clean ammonia production on the US Gulf Coast, with exports headed for Europe & Asia.

In February we also learned that Yara would increase its ammonia import capabilities in Brunsbüttel – up to 3 million tonnes per year.

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