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.
A new report, Roadmap to Decarbonising European Shipping, identifies a mix of three technologies - batteries, hydrogen, and ammonia - as being "by far the most efficient way to decarbonise the sector." Even so, to satisfy demand from EU's carbon-free shipping sector in 2050, this technology mix will require the installation of huge amounts of additional renewable power generation, equivalent to 25% of the EU's total electricity production.
Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago that sits far above the Arctic Circle, is being considered for the back end of an electricity-to-ammonia-to-electricity (P2A2P) scheme. As reported in Norway's Teknisk Ukeblad (TU), the state-owned utility Statkraft has surfaced ammonia as one of four possible hydrogen-oriented solutions to meet Svalbard’s energy needs – and then short-listed it for further study.
In the last 12 months ... National oil companies in Europe and the Middle East are looking to satisfy East Asian demand for clean hydrogen by exporting carbon-free ammonia. One of the biggest global LNG exporters is investigating ammonia for the same market, as it considers Australia's future as a renewable energy exporter. Oil majors are assessing ammonia's role in implementing an affordable hydrogen economy, looking toward fuel markets in California and Europe. And the biggest coal producer in China is funding the development of "the world’s first practical ammonia-powered vehicle."
The vision of a worldwide network of affiliated ammonia energy advocacy groups drew closer to reality. This a step toward fulfillment of a goal that was conceived in 2016 when the NH3 Fuel Association convened a Global Advisory Board. The idea was to launch a body that “could help ammonia energy proponents in different countries organize nationally or regionally focused ammonia energy advocacy bodies.” Over the last year, all four of the Advisory Board’s 'Ambassadors' played leadership roles on behalf of ammonia energy in their respective countries.
In the last 12 months ... IHI Corporation tested its 1 kW ammonia-fueled solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) in Japan; Project Alkammonia concluded its work on cracked-ammonia-fed alkaline fuel cells (AFC) in the EU; the University of Delaware's project for low-temperature direct ammonia fuel cells (DAFC) continues with funding from the US Department of Energy's ARPA-E; and, in Israel, GenCell launched its commercial 4 kW ammonia-fed AFC with field demonstrations at up to 800 locations across Kenya.
In the last 12 months ... If a “meme”, in the definition of British psychology professor Susan Blackmore, “is information copied from person to person, including words, stories, technologies, fashions, and customs,” then clearly there is a meme spectrum that has “esoteric knowledge” at one end and “the common wisdom” at the other. Where does ammonia energy fall on this spectrum? “Esoteric knowledge” it may once have been, but this is no longer the case with the concept’s first incursions into mainstream reporting this year.
In the last 12 months ... California passed a law mandating 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045; then its governor announced that the state's entire energy system - not just its electricity - would be carbon-neutral by 2045. The Hydrogen Council announced its "goal of decarbonizing 100% of hydrogen fuel used in transport by 2030." The International Maritime Organization set targets for the global shipping sector to “reduce the total annual GHG emissions by at least 50% by 2050,” and completely “phase them out, as soon as possible in this century,” and these targets were swiftly endorsed by the International Chamber of Shipping.
Regulators and self-regulating organizations around the world are enforcing systemic decarbonization and accelerating the transition to a hydrogen economy.
"Ammonia for Power" is an open-access literature review that includes over 300 citations for recent and ongoing research in the use of ammonia in engines, fuel cells, and turbines, as well as providing references to decades of historical case studies and publications. The review, written by a consortium of ammonia energy experts from the University of Cardiff, University of Oxford, the UK's Science and Technology Facilities Council, and Tsinghua University in China, can be found in the November 2018 edition of Progress in Energy and Combustion Science.