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Gigawatt-scale electrolyzer manufacturing and deployment

ANNUAL REVIEW 2019: Electrolyzers have featured heavily at this year's Ammonia Energy Conference, which ended today. How much can innovation increase efficiency? How far can volume manufacturing drive down capex? How much could process integration with Haber-Bosch deliver improved ammonia production? How realistically can new, sophisticated strategies optimize variable and baseload power inputs? These technical questions are all important, but none defines profitability. While progress is being made on all these fronts of research and development, major industrial projects are still moving forward.

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Ammonia in China: change is coming

ANNUAL REVIEW 2019: In the ammonia industry, Chinese data is notoriously hard to verify. Without question, the country produces more ammonia today than any other nation, and yet it has recently closed million of tons of annual capacity. Its cities are smothered in pollution, and its coal-based ammonia plants use the dirtiest technologies available. Huge questions remain. One answer is clear: China has repeatedly proven its desire and ability to become a global leader in developing and deploying clean technologies in the explicit effort to combat climate change. Within China, therefore, the question of large-scale adoption of ammonia energy technologies is increasingly becoming simpler. When?

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The mining industry: a driving force behind green ammonia

ANNUAL REVIEW 2019: Ammonia is too often assumed to be only a fertilizer. This assumption overlooks other important uses for the chemical, large and small, in every corner of our economy. Some of the recent green ammonia announcements suggest that these other industries might, in fact, present better economic fundamentals for green ammonia investments than the fertilizer industry. Alternatively, these companies might have set their sights on becoming first movers in developing the commodities of the future. Time will tell but, if the last 12 months is any guide, the mining industry could be a force for change in the ammonia industry.

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The fertilizer industry is learning to love green ammonia

ANNUAL REVIEW 2019: Green ammonia is no longer a lonely venture for Yara, which used to appear alone among fertilizer producers in its desire to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from ammonia plants. While dozens of green ammonia demonstration projects and prototype technologies have been demonstrated in recent years, this progress was mostly achieved by energy companies and technology start-ups - and Yara. In the last year, however, fertilizer producers on five continents have begun feasibility studies, launched pilot demonstrations, or simply gone ahead and re-engineered their ammonia plants to replace fossil fuel inputs with renewable hydrogen.

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The maritime sector’s ammonia learning curve: moving from scenario analysis to product development

ANNUAL REVIEW 2019: The maritime industry is learning about ammonia fast. It is searching for a new bunker fuel, and ammonia is one of the few options that can realistically deliver a 50% reduction in the sector's GHG emissions by 2050. The IMO declared this target in April 2018 and, in last year's Annual Review, I wrote about all the reports that were published demonstrating that ammonia could deliver this outcome. In the last 12 months, by contrast, we have moved quickly beyond analysis and into engineering design, technology testing, and product development.

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IHI Corporation pushes its ammonia combustion technologies closer to commercialization

This week, an article in Japan Chemical Daily disclosed IHI Corporation's future plans for its range of ammonia combustion technologies, each of which has been demonstrated in the last year. These include "ammonia-coal co-fired thermal power boilers, ammonia-fired gas turbines and direct ammonia solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs)." Under the headline "IHI Speeds up Development of Several Ammonia-Based Technologies," the article describes the company's ambitions for scaling-up each of these technologies, and provides a schedule for its next set of demonstration projects.

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Green Ammonia Plants in Chile, Australia, New Zealand

Green ammonia plants are being announced quicker than I can report. Here is a summary of four new projects that propose to use electrolyzers, fed by renewable power, to produce hydrogen for ammonia production. These are big companies, operating in regions with excellent renewable resources, making significant investments in their future. In Chile, it is Enaex, a major ammonium nitrate manufacturer, supplying explosives to the mining industry. In Australia, it is Incitec Pivot, "the second largest supplier of explosives products and services in the world," and Wesfarmers, "the largest Australian company by revenue," according to Wikipedia. In New Zealand, it is Ballance-Agri Nutrients, a big farmers' co-operative and the country's sole fertilizer producer. Each aims to make its business "future-proof." The transition from fossil ammonia to renewable ammonia is underway.

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Maritime ammonia engines in Japan; ammonia shipbuilding in South Korea

This week, Japan Engine Corporation (J-ENG) announced the launch of a new R&D program, in collaboration with the National Maritime Research Institute, that focuses on engine development for "combustion of carbon-free fuel (e.g. hydrogen and ammonia)." Five hundred miles across the Sea of Japan, DSME has completed a techno-economic feasibility study comparing three fuels: HFO (with scrubber), LNG, and ammonia. The results of this study will be presented at the Ammonia Energy Conference, in Orlando, FL, on November 13. DSME is one of the three big shipbuilders in South Korea, and its business case for ammonia is strong enough that now "DSME is planning to expand our technology and business to NH3 engineering and systems for commercial ships."

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Maritime fuel mix could be 25% ammonia by 2050

DNV GL published its annual Energy Transition Outlook last week, which includes a dedicated analysis of the shipping industry in its Maritime Forecast to 2050. According to DNV GL, the IMO's 2050 emission reduction targets can be met through innovative ship design, using ammonia as an alternative fuel. Widespread commercial adoption of ammonia fuel would begin in 2037; ammonia would the dominant fuel choice for new builds by 2042; and ammonia would represent 25% of the maritime fuel mix by 2050. This represents new demand for roughly 120 million tons per year of green ammonia by 2050. This outcome greatly depends on how maritime regulations are developed in the coming years, but it would see ammonia-fueled ships represent almost 100% of new vessels (by fuel consumption) from 2044 onwards.