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."
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."
NEWS BRIEF: The industrial process for ammonia production is increasingly being recognized as a target for decarbonization - by researchers, investors, regulators, and the producers themselves. Demonstrating this shift in awareness, Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN), one of the flagship publications of the American Chemical Society (ACS), this week published an in-depth review of global research and development efforts and demonstration plants for sustainable ammonia synthesis. Its review is all-encompassing, from near-term feasible renewable Haber-Bosch plants, to long-term research areas of electrochemistry, photocatalysis, and bioengineering.
AFC Energy PLC, the British fuel cell company, announced on May 20 the successful conclusion of “ammonia to power (‘A2P’) fuel cell generator trials.” The result is “proof of concept” for a system consisting of an "off the shelf" ammonia cracker and a proprietary alkaline fuel cell that can readily utilize hydrogen with residual quantities of uncracked ammonia. The achievement positions AFC “to conclude work on the business case and engineering of an integrated, scalable ammonia fuelled clean power generator.”
NEWS BRIEF: A paper published this week in Nature addresses the challenge of accurately reporting synthesis rates for electrochemical ammonia production technologies. According to the authors, from Stanford University, the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), and Imperial College London, it is not always clear if new technologies really synthesize ammonia, or if the researchers simply measured contaminants. This is because, at experimental scale, materially significant amounts of ammonia (or other nitrogen-containing molecules) could be present in the air, membranes, catalysts, or simply the researchers' breath. To support the development of viable electrochemical ammonia synthesis technologies, the authors propose "benchmarking protocols," and "a standardized set of control experiments."
NEWS BRIEF: A new policy think tank was launched last month that will focus on "why and how Scotland could benefit from being an early adopter of renewable hydrogen." Its "core starting point" is CSIRO's hydrogen-purification membrane, which enables ammonia to be used and exported as an efficient hydrogen carrier; for this use, green ammonia would be produced from offshore wind. According to the founders, this could lead to "Scotland becoming one of the largest global energy exporters in the world ... it could be the country’s main source of energy and create a knowledge economy."
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.
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."
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."
In the last 12 months ...
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.