ANNOUNCEMENT: SMARTCATS, an Action within Europe’s “intergovernmental framework” for Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST), has this week published the list of keynote speakers for its Ammonia for Fueling Future Energy Workshop, which will be held on April 13 and 14 in Lisbon, Portugal.
Speakers will include John Bøgild Hansen, Senior Scientist at Haldor Topsoe and member of the Ammonia Energy Association (AEA) Board of Directors; Bill David, University of Oxford Professor and member of the AEA Advisory Board; and myself in my role as AEA President.
After two successful years, the NH3 Event returns on June 6 & 7 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, for the third edition. Ammonia is still an underestimated route to achieving a sustainable energy economy. At the NH3 Event, members of the energy community, including the public, NGOs, policy-makers, industries, and academics — including well-known experts, developers, and scientists — gather to present the latest research results and commercial achievements, and to discuss new application fields and business prospects for ammonia in energy solutions. And this year with very interesting names!
This week, Yara announced major progress toward producing "green ammonia" at its plant in Pilbara, Australia. Its new partner in this project is ENGIE, the global energy and services group, which last year made a major commitment to developing large-scale renewable hydrogen projects.
I first reported Yara's plans for a solar ammonia demonstration at its Pilbara plant in September 2017. This week's announcement means that the Pilbara project has moved to the next feasibility phase. However, major elements of the project have already been designed and built: during last year's scheduled turnaround for plant maintenance, the hydrogen piping tie-in was completed - meaning that the Haber-Bosch unit is ready to receive hydrogen directly, as soon as an electrolyzer has been built to supply it with renewable feedstock.
In January 2019, the UK Department for Transport published a policy paper outlining its vision for the maritime sector over the coming decades. Among the many recommendations contained in Maritime 2050: navigating the future, is a medium-term objective to place "a group of hydrogen or ammonia powered domestic vessels in operation."
The "strategic ambition" driving this recommendation is the expectation that "the UK will ... lead the way in taking action on clean maritime growth enjoying economic benefits from being an early adopter or fast mover." Moving forward, these recommendations will be developed into policy in the government's forthcoming Clean Maritime Plan, scheduled to be published in Spring 2019.
Last year, Yara Sluiskil, in the Netherlands, upgraded its existing ammonia plant by introducing a hydrogen pipeline connection, thereby reducing its reliance on fossil fuels. The pipeline was commissioned in October 2018 and now "ensures the efficient and safe transport of hydrogen," which was previously a waste-product at Dow's nearby ethylene cracker. Already, the project "delivers a CO2 saving of 10,000 tons" and a decrease in energy consumption of "0.15 petajoules (PJ) per year."
This is, perhaps, the first ammonia plant decarbonization revamp, and it shows that it is both possible and affordable to reduce emissions from existing ammonia plants today.
In June 2018, MAN Diesel & Turbo rebranded itself MAN Energy Solutions, reflecting the maritime engine market leader's "strategic and technological transformation" towards sustainability. The company was "taking a stand for the Paris Climate Agreement and the global pursuit of a carbon-neutral economy." According to Uwe Lauber, Chairman of the Board, "our activities have a significant impact on the global economy. In shipping, for example, we move more than half of the global stream of goods ... [and] the path to decarbonising the maritime economy starts with fuel decarbonisation, especially in container shipping."
This week, the company took a significant step towards realizing its vision, disclosing that it is "pressing ahead with developing ... an ammonia-fuelled engine." This builds on the technology development pathway that MAN ES presented at the NH3 Energy+ Topical Conference at Pittsburgh in October 2018. The budget and timeline are set: the €5 million (USD$5.7 million) project will last two to three years and, if the shipowners decide to deploy the finished product, "the first ammonia engine could then be in operation by early 2022."
ETN Global’s latest R&D Recommendation was released in October 2018. ETN stands for European Turbine Network and its technology of interest is the gas turbine. The 2018 Recommendation is notable because it is the first that includes ammonia on the R&D agenda.
In the UK, an expansive report was published last month that examines the role of Hydrogen in a low-carbon economy. It considers ammonia's role in depth, both as a potential low-cost hydrogen carrier and as a direct fuel.
As a hydrogen carrier, "converting hydrogen to ammonia as a means of transporting it over long distances would have lower costs than transporting it as hydrogen." And used directly, ammonia is "a hydrogen-rich liquid that could be used as an alternative or complementary fuel."
By definition, members of the ammonia energy community see ammonia as the preferred form of hydrogen in many applications. Until recently, this view was not shared by most members of the hydrogen energy community. Where there was awareness at all, ammonia was often seen as dangerous or irrelevant. However, since the middle years of this decade a transition has been occurring. Lack of awareness and wariness (let’s call this stage 1) is giving way to interest in and exploration of ammonia’s potential role in discrete applications (stage 2). At some point, we may arrive at a third stage. This will be characterized by the development of sustainable energy systems that have been cost-optimized with ammonia as a staple energy commodity. In this scenario, elemental hydrogen will be the supporting actor that appears only in discrete contexts.
Hydrogen, Enabling a Zero Emission Europe, Technology Roadmaps, a report released in September 2018 by the advocacy group Hydrogen Europe, perfectly exemplifies the stage 2 mindset. Ammonia energy is discussed in a handful of instances as a narrow-scope expedient. To be sure, the report implies, ammonia could be a part of the solution. But it also might not pan out at all.
Dutch start-up Battolyser BV was today declared the winner of Industrial Energy Enlightenmentz 2018. The award was announced at the annual Industry & Energy event, held at the Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Geleen, which this year focused on the theme When Electrons Power Molecules.
At the NH3 Energy+ Topical Conference last month, Hans Vrijenhoef of Proton Ventures gave the opening presentation, co-authored by Fokko Mulder of TU Delft, in which he described the battolyser's robust combination battery and electrolyzer. He also mapped out Battolyser BV's technology development and investment pathway, beginning with the kW-scale pilot plant that is already underway and expected to be operational by Spring 2019, and a MW-scale, modular, containerized plant which should be complete by the end of 2020. Reaching a technology readiness level of TRL8, Battolyser BV then aims to increase industrial scale swiftly, demonstrating a 100 MW unit by 2025 and a 1 GW battolyser by 2030.