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Carbon intensity of fossil ammonia in a net-zero world

In discussions of carbon capture technology for low-carbon ammonia production, there are two informal rule-of-thumb numbers: 60% and 90%. We know we can capture, at very little additional cost, over 60% of the CO2 from a natural gas-based ammonia plant because this is the process gas (the byproduct of hydrogen production). Many ammonia plants already utilize this pure CO2 stream to produce urea or to sell as food grade CO2. The remaining CO2 emissions are in the much more dilute flue gas (the product of fuel combustion to power the process). For some decades we have assumed we could capture most of this but the lingering question has always been: how much of that flue gas is economically feasible to capture? A team of researchers at Imperial College London has just published a fascinating study into this question, entitled “Beyond 90% capture: Possible, but at what cost?” The paper quantifies the tipping point — ranging from 90% to 99%, depending on flow rates and concentration — beyond which it is easier to capture CO2 directly from the air than it is to capture more flue gas emissions.

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Marine Ammonia: panel wrap-up from the 2020 Ammonia Energy Conference

What action is needed to unlock the enormous potential of green ammonia as a marine fuel and get the new generation of ammonia-powered vessels on the water? On November 18, 2020, the Ammonia Energy Association (AEA) hosted a panel discussion moderated by Sofia Fürstenberg Stott from Fürstenberg Maritime Advisory, as well as panel members Tue Johannessen from the Center for Zero Carbon Shipping, Katharine Palmer from Lloyd’s Register, Rob Stevens from Yara International, and Kazumasa Taruishi from NYK Energy Transport.

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Low-carbon ammonia in Nebraska and the Netherlands

Last week, two new low-carbon ammonia production projects were announced, both of them large-scale and largely CO2-free. Monolith Materials announced a 275,000 ton per year “clean ammonia” plant in Nebraska, in the heart of the US cornbelt. The plant will begin construction in 2021, expanding the existing demonstration plant, using Monolith’s methane pyrolysis process powered by 100% renewable electricity. Ørsted and Yara announced their plan to produce 75,000 tons per year of “green ammonia” at Yara’s existing Sluiskil plant in the Netherlands. They intend to install a 100 MW electrolyzer, using Ørsted’s offshore wind energy, with a final investment decision expected in 2021-2022, and production beginning in 2024-2025.

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Picking bunker winners: the mono-fuel / dual-fuel duel

This week, DNV GL published its annual Maritime Forecast to 2050, concluding that “e-ammonia, blue ammonia and bio-methanol are the most promising carbon-neutral fuels in the long run.” DNV GL’s assumptions that determine this long run, however, suggest a significant mid-term reliance on fossil LNG. This risks locking the industry into a long-term emissions trajectory incompatible with the IMO’s 2050 GHG targets, in part because of significant fuel supply and infrastructure investments. These investments could become more ‘sticky’ than expected. A host of alternative opinions have been published in the days before and after DNV GL published its report. These suggest that, for ammonia, the long run could begin this decade. Among others, MAN ES has announced that its ammonia engine will be available for retrofits by 2025.

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Hyundai joins Fortescue and CSIRO to “fast track” ammonia to high-purity hydrogen system

Fortescue recently announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Hyundai Motor Company and CSIRO for the “development and future commercialisation” of its metal membrane technology. This technology, which produces high-purity compressed hydrogen from liquid ammonia, was demonstrated in 2018. It enables PEM fuel cell vehicles to refuel using hydrogen that is generated on demand from ammonia. At scale, this technology could enable an ammonia-based hydrogen production, storage, and distribution infrastructure, lowering the barriers to implementation of a national network of hydrogen filling stations. Now, “Hyundai will seek to demonstrate the viability of the technology for renewable hydrogen production and vehicle fuelling in Korea.”

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Green ammonia at oil and gas scale: the 15 GW Asian Renewable Energy Hub

The Asian Renewable Energy Hub will be a 6,500 square kilometer wind and solar farm in Australia's Pilbara desert, producing green ammonia for export beginning in 2027/28. This was recently reported as an investment of AU$ 22 billion (US$ 16 billion). As it says on its website, this is "renewable energy at oil and gas scale." Details recently entered the public domain regarding the project's upstream segment (power generation). Now, its downstream segment (green ammonia production) is coming into focus as well. InterContinental Energy, one of the project backers, represents the Asian Renewable Energy Hub as just one project within its $100+ billion, 50 million ton per year, green ammonia and green methanol production portfolio: "the largest and most advanced portfolio of green hydrogen projects worldwide."

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Solar ammonia, available in Spain from 2021

Last week, Iberdrola and Fertiberia announced plans to start producing green ammonia for “fertilizantes libres de emisiones” (emission-free fertilizers). Iberdrola will invest EUR 150 million to build the 100 MW “Puertollano II” solar field, with a 20 MW electrolyzer bank to produce renewable hydrogen. Fertiberia will “update and modify” its existing Puertollano plant to consume this green hydrogen, reducing its natural gas use by “over 10%,” and producing green ammonia beginning in 2021.

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Saudi Arabia to export renewable energy using green ammonia

Last week, Air Products, ACWA Power, and NEOM announced a $5 billion, 4 gigawatt green ammonia plant in Saudi Arabia, to be operational by 2025. Air Products, the exclusive off-taker, intends to distribute the green ammonia globally and crack it back to “carbon-free hydrogen” at the point of use, supplying hydrogen refueling stations. According to Air Products’ presentation on the project, “our focus is fueling hydrogen fuel cell buses and trucks.” This will be one of the first projects to be built in the industrial hub of NEOM, a futuristic “model for sustainable living.” NEOM is a key element in Vision 2030, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plan to diversify the Saudi Arabian economy and reduce dependence on oil revenues. In other words, Saudi Arabia is establishing itself as “a global leader in green hydrogen production and green fuels.”

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Wärtsilä, Repsol, and Knutsen to test ammonia four-stroke engine

This week, engine manufacturer Wärtsilä announced “the world’s first long term, full-scale, testing of ammonia as a fuel in a marine four-stroke combustion engine.” The project will begin in the first quarter of 2021, at the Sustainable Energy Catapult Centre’s testing facilities at Stord, Norway. It is supported by a NOK 20 million (USD 2 million) grant from the Norwegian Research Council.