One of the most interesting unanswered questions surrounding green ammonia is this: what about urea?
Last month, a major announcement by Stamicarbon ("the world market leader in design, licensing and development of urea plants") implies an answer: in the long-term context of climate change, urea as a fertilizer may simply need to be phased out.
Stamicarbon announced its new Innovation Agenda at the company's "Future Day" event in Utrecht in April. Its Innovation Agenda covers three areas: speciality fertilizers, digitalization, and "Renewable production of fertilizer (using wind or solar energy to produce fertilizer)."
ANNOUNCEMENT: The US Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) has published a Request For Information (RFI) focused on supporting scale-up demonstrations of ARPA-E technologies. Unlike normal ARPA-E funding agreements, which typically provide 5%-20% of the financing for bench-scale projects within laboratories, this RFI is geared towards industrial pilot projects, for which ARPA-E would provide "at least 50% cost share."
The journal Advanced Materials recently published an article that reviews electrochemical ammonia technologies for both synthesis and power generation. In addition to presenting a range of technologies under development, the authors, based at the University of Delaware, present "perspectives in the technical challenges and possible remedies."
NEWS BRIEF: Ammonia energy has entered the federal election campaign discourse in Australia. This is thanks to a grassroots movement that calls itself Fair Dinkum Power, which "aims to make climate change a battleground issue in the election campaign," and whose manifesto calls for using ammonia as a hydrogen carrier to export clean energy.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Call for Abstracts closes next week - Deadline April 12!
Our 16th annual Ammonia Energy Conference is tentatively scheduled to take place on November 13-14, 2019, as part of the AIChE Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida. If you wish to make a presentation, please submit your abstract via the AIChE website, making sure to select the Topical Conference: Ammonia Energy.
NEWS BRIEF: A new policy think tank was launched last month that will focus on "why and how Scotland could benefit from being an early adopter of renewable hydrogen." Its "core starting point" is CSIRO's hydrogen-purification membrane, which enables ammonia to be used and exported as an efficient hydrogen carrier; for this use, green ammonia would be produced from offshore wind. According to the founders, this could lead to "Scotland becoming one of the largest global energy exporters in the world ... it could be the country’s main source of energy and create a knowledge economy."
Haldor Topsoe has greatly improved the near-term prospects for green ammonia by announcing a demonstration of its next-generation ammonia synthesis plant. This new technology uses a solid oxide electrolysis cell to make synthesis gas (hydrogen and nitrogen), which feeds Haldor Topsoe's existing technology: the Haber-Bosch plant. The product is ammonia, made from air, water, and renewable electricity.
The "SOC4NH3" project was recently awarded funds from the Danish Energy Agency, allowing Haldor Topsoe to demonstrate the system with its academic partners, and to deliver a feasibility study for a small industrial-scale green ammonia pilot plant, which it hopes to build by 2025. There are two dimensions to this technology that make it so important: its credibility and its efficiency.
NEWS BRIEF: A research paper was published this week by researchers from Xiamen Univeristy in China, which "proposes a scheme for an ammonia-based energy storage system in which ammonia, an environmentally benign hydrogen carrier, is expected to [resolve] the conflicts of renewable energy supply and consumption in China."
This week, Yara announced major progress toward producing "green ammonia" at its plant in Pilbara, Australia. Its new partner in this project is ENGIE, the global energy and services group, which last year made a major commitment to developing large-scale renewable hydrogen projects.
I first reported Yara's plans for a solar ammonia demonstration at its Pilbara plant in September 2017. This week's announcement means that the Pilbara project has moved to the next feasibility phase. However, major elements of the project have already been designed and built: during last year's scheduled turnaround for plant maintenance, the hydrogen piping tie-in was completed - meaning that the Haber-Bosch unit is ready to receive hydrogen directly, as soon as an electrolyzer has been built to supply it with renewable feedstock.
In January 2019, the UK Department for Transport published a policy paper outlining its vision for the maritime sector over the coming decades. Among the many recommendations contained in Maritime 2050: navigating the future, is a medium-term objective to place "a group of hydrogen or ammonia powered domestic vessels in operation."
The "strategic ambition" driving this recommendation is the expectation that "the UK will ... lead the way in taking action on clean maritime growth enjoying economic benefits from being an early adopter or fast mover." Moving forward, these recommendations will be developed into policy in the government's forthcoming Clean Maritime Plan, scheduled to be published in Spring 2019.