On September 3, the British renewable-energy news portal reNEWS.BIZ ran a story with an intriguing headline: “Scotland launches £3bn green project portfolio.” At first glance, that number (which equates to USD $3.7 billion) looks out of scale with Scotland’s relatively tiny population of 5.5 million. Close reading reveals that the £3 billion is not the amount that will be invested by the Scottish government, but rather the value of the “investment portfolio” of green businesses the program is intended to galvanize over the next three years. But still one wonders, how does £3 billion stack up against other national programs aimed at supporting the sustainability transition?
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.
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.
Last month a group of researchers from the Technion Israel Institute of Technology published a paper, “Decoupled hydrogen and oxygen evolution by a two-step electrochemical–chemical cycle for efficient overall water splitting,” in the journal Nature Energy. The key word in the title is “efficient.” In a September 15 Technion press release, the researchers state that their technology “facilitates an unprecedented energetic efficiency of 98.7% in the production of hydrogen from water.” Applied to the appropriate use case, the technology could lead to a major improvement in green ammonia’s ability to compete with brown ammonia and other low-carbon energy carriers.
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."
The Australian state of South Australia took another step into the hydrogen future this week when it unveiled its Hydrogen Action Plan at the International Conference on Hydrogen Safety in Adelaide. The heart of the Action Plan consists of the practical measures that governments undertake in areas such as infrastructure, workforce, and regulatory framework development. Zoom out, though, and it is clear that fostering a major export position in green hydrogen is first among equals in the Action Plan's priorities. And this being the case, it is no surprise that ammonia is singled out for special attention.
On September 11, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) issued its 2019 Investment Plan. The theme of the accompanying press release is “sharpening our focus,” and indeed the agency articulates just three investment priorities: “integrating renewables into the electricity system;” “accelerating the growth of a hydrogen industry;” and “supporting industry to reduce emissions.” The prioritization of hydrogen – and with it, ammonia as a possible hydrogen carrier – is a new development for ARENA.
The Ammonia Energy Association Australia’s Ammonia = Hydrogen 2.0 Conference took place on 22-23 August 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. It attracted 115 attendees from industry, government, and research institutions. This is the first of two articles about the event; this article recaps the interactive panel sessions and the second article will highlight selected presentations.
The panel discussions were placed at the end of the program so that important themes from the presentations could be highlighted and integrated. These themes included: 1) Building an energy export industry using green ammonia; 2) Green ammonia as a maritime bunker fuel; and 3) Green ammonia as grid scale energy storage – a battery to the nation.
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."
Japanese capital goods manufacturer IHI Corporation announced last month that it has started construction of a 1,000 square-meter hydrogen research facility in Fukushima Prefecture. The facility will be an addition to IHI’s Green Energy Center in Soma City which was launched in 2018. One of the Center’s original focuses is the production steps of the green hydrogen supply chain using solar electricity to power developmental electrolyzers. The new facility will focus on hydrogen carriers, including ammonia and methane (via “methanation” of carbon dioxide), that can be used in the logistics steps of the supply chain.