Last week the International Energy Agency released The Future of Hydrogen, a 203-page report that “provides an extensive and independent assessment of hydrogen that lays out where things stand now; the ways in which hydrogen can help to achieve a clean, secure and affordable energy future; and how we can go about realising its potential.” In this, the first part of a two-part article, the report's overall strengths are considered. The second part will focus on the report's discussion of ammonia as a contributor to the emerging hydrogen economy.
NEWS BRIEF: The industrial process for ammonia production is increasingly being recognized as a target for decarbonization - by researchers, investors, regulators, and the producers themselves. Demonstrating this shift in awareness, Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN), one of the flagship publications of the American Chemical Society (ACS), this week published an in-depth review of global research and development efforts and demonstration plants for sustainable ammonia synthesis. Its review is all-encompassing, from near-term feasible renewable Haber-Bosch plants, to long-term research areas of electrochemistry, photocatalysis, and bioengineering.
In May, the Environmental Defense Fund published Sailing on Solar, a significant new report that assesses the potential for green ammonia to be used as a maritime fuel, reducing the global shipping industry's carbon emissions.
Its 60-page techno-economic analysis concludes that "green ammonia can – indeed should – be adopted as a greenhouse gas-free fuel more easily, quickly and safely than people may assume." Indeed, Sailing on Solar estimates that, to meet decarbonization targets, ammonia will need to start being adopted in ships "during the 2020s."
Last week IEA Consultant Julien Armijo and IEA Senior Analyst Cédric Philibert submitted their study Flexible Production of Green Hydrogen and Ammonia from Variable Solar and Wind Energy: Case Study of Chile and Argentina to the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy and concurrently posted it on ResearchGate. The study addresses one of the key questions of the energy transition: what are the economics of producing hydrogen, or a hydrogen carrier such as ammonia, at sites with excellent renewable energy resources? The answer, framed in terms of the cost-competitiveness in local markets of green ammonia vs. conventionally produced brown ammonia, casts an encouraging light on the eventual prospects for international trade in green ammonia as an energy commodity.
Last week, Forbes.com published Power-To-X In The German Experience: Another In The List Of Growing Energy Transition Strategies. The article in effect nominates ammonia as a singularly promising up-and-comer in the field of the alternative energy vectors. Such an endorsement is heartening, but the article is notable as much for who is delivering the message – and the fact of its delivery under the Forbes masthead – as for what the message is.
Fertilizers Europe published an important report in late 2018 that examines key drivers for the fertilizer industry and describes the "likely developments expected between now and 2030." These developments include producing "perhaps 10%" of European ammonia from renewable electricity by using electrolyzers to generate renewable hydrogen feedstock. This would require scaling up green ammonia production capacity to more than a million tons per year, within ten years.
The report, Feeding Life 2030, also describes the policy framework required "to sustain the Vision." In this vision, ammonia sits at "the crossroads of nutrition and energy" and is recognized as "the ‘missing link’ in the coming energy transformation."
Volume 174 of the journal Energy, published on May 1, 2019, includes a paper by Shin’ya Obara, Professor in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the Kitami Institute of Technology in Japan, that should be of interest to hydrogen advocates everywhere. The paper, "Energy and exergy flows of a hydrogen supply chain with truck transportation of ammonia or methyl cyclohexane," concludes that a hydrogen supply chain based on ammonia has better energy efficiency than one based on methyl cyclohexane (MCH).
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."
Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) announced on March 12 that it had released a “major revision” to the country’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Strategy Roadmap. The Roadmap was first formulated in 2014 to “secure the goals set forth in the Basic Hydrogen Strategy and the 5th Basic Energy Plan for the realization of a hydrogen society.” The Roadmap’s last revision in 2016 predates new editions of the foundation documents that were released in December 2017 and July 2018, respectively.
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."