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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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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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Engie, Siemens, STFC, and Ecuity awarded funding for green ammonia-to-hydrogen in UK

Last week, the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced a "£390 million government investment to reduce emissions from industry," with a focus on low-carbon hydrogen supply and clean steel production. As part of this investment, a consortium led by Ecuity Consulting that includes Siemens, Engie, and the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC), has been awarded £249,000 to perform "valuable research on the role of ammonia in the delivery of low cost bulk hydrogen for use in the UK energy system."

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Yara and Nel collaborate to reduce electrolyzer costs; announce green ammonia pilot in Norway by 2022

This week, two Norwegian companies, fertilizer producer Yara and electrolyzer manufacturer Nel, announced an agreement to test Nel's "next generation" alkaline electrolyzer at an ammonia production site. The parties expect to begin operating a 5 MW prototype in 2022, feeding green hydrogen directly into Yara's 500,000 ton per year ammonia plant at Porsgrunn.

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Bunker Ammonia: Rapid Cross-Sector Progress from Industry, Government, Finance, and Class Societies

The maritime industry has been engaged in a frenzy of research since April 2018, when the International Maritime Organization (IMO) announced its Initial GHG Strategy mandating a 50% reduction in shipping's emissions by 2050. Three recent announcements illustrate the speed and depth of progress across a range of maritime stakeholders. In the government sector, the UK has launched its Clean Maritime Plan, which identifies ammonia as one of its strategic "clean growth opportunities." In finance, a coalition of 11 banks representing a shipping portfolio of around $100 billion has launched the Poseidon Principles to "redefine the role of banks in the maritime shipping sector." And class society ABS launched its Global Sustainability Center in Singapore to analyse, certify, and validate alternative fuels and new technologies; its Director of Global Sustainability will speak at the inaugural conference of the Ammonia Energy Association--Australia, held in Clayton, VIC, on August 22-23. His subject will be "Green ammonia as marine bunker fuel."

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Strategic collaboration announced between Proton Ventures and Duiker Combustion Engineers

This week, two industry members of the Ammonia Energy Association announced that they have launched a "strategic collaboration." Coming from opposite ends of the ammonia energy value chain, one specialized in production and the other in combustion, this new partnership allows the two companies to "complete the chain of using ammonia as an energy solution."

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Fuel Economy Standards, and the Roles of Ammonia

In the news this week, California and four automakers (BMW, Ford, Honda and VW) signed an agreement on fuel economy standards, rising 3.7% per year to about 50 MPG in 2026. This agreement, as well as previous California and Federal standards, give automakers flexibility to meet the standards with incentives and credits for new technology such as electric, hybrid, and alternative fuel vehicles.