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Ammonia in China: change is coming

ANNUAL REVIEW 2019: In the ammonia industry, Chinese data is notoriously hard to verify. Without question, the country produces more ammonia today than any other nation, and yet it has recently closed million of tons of annual capacity. Its cities are smothered in pollution, and its coal-based ammonia plants use the dirtiest technologies available. Huge questions remain. One answer is clear: China has repeatedly proven its desire and ability to become a global leader in developing and deploying clean technologies in the explicit effort to combat climate change. Within China, therefore, the question of large-scale adoption of ammonia energy technologies is increasingly becoming simpler. When?

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Government Investments in Hydrogen: How Does Your Country Compare?

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?

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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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Ammonia Featured in South Australia’s Hydrogen Action Plan

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.

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Maritime fuel mix could be 25% ammonia by 2050

DNV GL published its annual Energy Transition Outlook last week, which includes a dedicated analysis of the shipping industry in its Maritime Forecast to 2050. According to DNV GL, the IMO's 2050 emission reduction targets can be met through innovative ship design, using ammonia as an alternative fuel. Widespread commercial adoption of ammonia fuel would begin in 2037; ammonia would the dominant fuel choice for new builds by 2042; and ammonia would represent 25% of the maritime fuel mix by 2050. This represents new demand for roughly 120 million tons per year of green ammonia by 2050. This outcome greatly depends on how maritime regulations are developed in the coming years, but it would see ammonia-fueled ships represent almost 100% of new vessels (by fuel consumption) from 2044 onwards.

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Hydrogen Prioritized in New ARENA Investment Plan

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.

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Engie, Siemens, STFC, and Ecuity awarded funding for green ammonia-to-hydrogen in UK

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."

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Bunker Ammonia: Rapid Cross-Sector Progress from Industry, Government, Finance, and Class Societies

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."

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Japan, U.S., E.U. Agree to Cooperate on Hydrogen

On June 18, Japan, the United States, and the European Union released a joint statement on “future cooperation in hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.”  Represented, respectively, by the Ministry of Energy, Trade, and Industry (METI), the Department of Energy (DoE), and the Directorate-General for Energy (ENER), the jurisdictions pledged “to accelerate the development of sustainable hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in the world.”  A central point of agreement in the statement is “the importance of reducing the cost of hydrogen.”