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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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IHI Corporation pushes its ammonia combustion technologies closer to commercialization

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.

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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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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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Heavy-duty diesel trucks to be converted to use ammonia fuel in Canada

This week, Hydrofuel Inc announced a commercial demonstration project to convert diesel gensets and transport trucks to run on ammonia fuel, with the conversion work and dual-fuel operations scheduled for a three year period. The CAD $2 million (USD $1.5 million) project will take place at TFX International, in Toronto, and involves the conversion of four existing diesel-fueled assets: two stationary power generators and two transport trucks. These will be converted using Hydrofuel's "aftermarket multi-fuels engine retrofit systems," and they will thereafter be able to operate on a dual fuel basis.

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Green ammonia: Haldor Topsoe’s solid oxide electrolyzer

Haldor Topsoe has greatly improved the near-term prospects for green ammonia by announcing a demonstration of its next-generation ammonia synthesis plant. This new technology uses a solid oxide electrolysis cell to make synthesis gas (hydrogen and nitrogen), which feeds Haldor Topsoe's existing technology: the Haber-Bosch plant. The product is ammonia, made from air, water, and renewable electricity. The "SOC4NH3" project was recently awarded funds from the Danish Energy Agency, allowing Haldor Topsoe to demonstrate the system with its academic partners, and to deliver a feasibility study for a small industrial-scale green ammonia pilot plant, which it hopes to build by 2025. There are two dimensions to this technology that make it so important: its credibility and its efficiency.

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Ammonia plant revamp to decarbonize: Yara Pilbara

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.

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The Allam Cycle’s Nexus with Ammonia

8 Rivers Capital, the developer of “the Allam Cycle, the only technology that will enable the world to meet all of its climate targets without having to pay more for electricity,” unveiled plans in November 2018 for a “billion-dollar clean energy production site” in New Zealand whose outputs are slated to include low-carbon ammonia. That is a sentence with a lot of angles, and unpacking it will take some effort. So let’s start right in with the Allam Cycle.

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JGC Corporation demonstrates “world’s first” carbon-free ammonia energy cycle

In late 2018, JGC Corporation issued a press release to celebrate a "world's first" in ammonia energy, demonstrating at its pilot plant in Koriyama both "synthesis of ammonia with hydrogen produced through the electrolysis of water by renewable energy, and generation of electricity through gas turbines fueled by synthesized ammonia." By demonstrating the feasibility of using ammonia on both sides of the renewable energy equation -- first, producing green ammonia from intermittent renewable electricity and, second, combusting this carbon-free fuel for power generation -- the project demonstrates the role of ammonia in the "establishment of an energy chain ... that does not emit CO2 (CO2-free) from production to power generation."