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Ammonia infrastructure: panel wrap-up from the 2020 Ammonia Energy Conference

Infrastructure is key to realising the full potential of ammonia energy, enabling new markets and expanding the existing ones. By 2050 the hydrogen (and by extension, ammonia) market could be 20 times larger than it is today. What future possibilities are there to expand global ammonia production (currently 180 million tonnes per year) or trade volumes across the world’s oceans (currently 18 million tonnes per year)? On November 18, 2020, the Ammonia Energy Association (AEA) hosted a panel discussion moderated by Daniel Morris from KBR, as well as panel members Anthony Teo from DNV GL, Oliver Hatfield from Argus Media, and Michael Goff from Black & Veatch as part of the recent Ammonia Energy Conference. The panel’s insights from a number of different perspectives - market analytics, ship building and operating, as well as pipeline engineering - demonstrated ammonia's potential to become a low- or zero-carbon fuel of choice for the future. Current infrastructure can be adapted, new infrastructure can be built and operated cheaply, and lessons from previous fuel transitions can be taken on board to make the uptake of ammonia energy as smooth as possible.

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METI Forms Ammonia Energy Council

Last week, Japan’s Ministry of Energy, Trade, and Industry (METI) announced the formation of a council to work on the implementation of ammonia as an energy commodity. The announcement came on the same day as a speech by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in which he established 2050 as the date certain for Japan to achieve carbon-neutrality. That was Monday October 26, 2020. The council held its first meeting on Tuesday October 27. The Council consists of four entities from the public sector and ten from the private sector. Members include companies that have previously been identified with the development of ammonia energy systems, including EPC firm JGC, capital goods manufacturer IHI, electric utility JERA, and shipping company NYK Line. The membership also reflects what appears to be the group’s central mission: positioning Japan as ammonia energy’s global leader via the dissemination of technology and the development of supply chains.

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Japan’s Electricity Sector: An Early Market for Low-Carbon Ammonia

This week, Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that by 2050 the country would drive its greenhouse gas emissions to zero and achieve carbon-neutrality. Earlier in the month, the Japanese electric utility JERA announced its intention of “achieving zero CO2 emissions by 2050.” Its first step toward this goal was its 'JERA Zero CO2 Emissions 2050 Roadmap for its Business in Japan.'

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Saudi Arabia ships low-carbon ammonia to Japan

Last week, Saudi Aramco and the IEEJ attracted significant media attention when they announced that the first “blue” ammonia has been shipped to Japan. Aramco’s celebration of this shipment of 40 tons of ammonia (not 40 thousand or 40 million, just 40 tons) raises many questions, but makes three things clear. First, projects to demonstrate the carbon footprint of specific batches of low-carbon ammonia are now underway, and these case studies will inform the design of an international low-carbon ammonia certification scheme. Second, there is an urgent need to establish definitions across the industry, or risk losing credibility. Third, Aramco (absolutely the most profitable company in the world, with over a hundred oil and gas fields and almost 300 trillion scf of natural gas reserves) has sent a clear signal that it intends to make and sell ammonia as a decarbonized energy commodity.

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Green ammonia at oil and gas scale: the 15 GW Asian Renewable Energy Hub

The Asian Renewable Energy Hub will be a 6,500 square kilometer wind and solar farm in Australia's Pilbara desert, producing green ammonia for export beginning in 2027/28. This was recently reported as an investment of AU$ 22 billion (US$ 16 billion). As it says on its website, this is "renewable energy at oil and gas scale." Details recently entered the public domain regarding the project's upstream segment (power generation). Now, its downstream segment (green ammonia production) is coming into focus as well. InterContinental Energy, one of the project backers, represents the Asian Renewable Energy Hub as just one project within its $100+ billion, 50 million ton per year, green ammonia and green methanol production portfolio: "the largest and most advanced portfolio of green hydrogen projects worldwide."

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Saudi Arabia to export renewable energy using green ammonia

Last week, Air Products, ACWA Power, and NEOM announced a $5 billion, 4 gigawatt green ammonia plant in Saudi Arabia, to be operational by 2025. Air Products, the exclusive off-taker, intends to distribute the green ammonia globally and crack it back to “carbon-free hydrogen” at the point of use, supplying hydrogen refueling stations. According to Air Products’ presentation on the project, “our focus is fueling hydrogen fuel cell buses and trucks.” This will be one of the first projects to be built in the industrial hub of NEOM, a futuristic “model for sustainable living.” NEOM is a key element in Vision 2030, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plan to diversify the Saudi Arabian economy and reduce dependence on oil revenues. In other words, Saudi Arabia is establishing itself as “a global leader in green hydrogen production and green fuels.”

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Engie, Siemens, Ecuity, and STFC publish Feasibility of Ammonia-to-Hydrogen

The UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) recently published the feasibility study for its Ammonia to Green Hydrogen Project. This studies the techno-economic feasibility of importing green ammonia in order to supply large volumes of high-purity low-carbon hydrogen in the UK. The project has been designed and delivered by a heavyweight consortium of ENGIE, Siemens, Ecuity Consulting, and the UK’s STFC. The feasibility study, which is publicly available, represents the conclusion of Phase One of this project. Phase Two is demonstration: “to raise the TRL of a lithium imide based ammonia cracker from 4 to 6/7,” meaning that the technology is ready for deployment.

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Hydrogen in Australia: investments and jobs

There is so much hydrogen news coming out of Australia that it is hard to keep up. At the state level, Tasmania has released its draft plan to increase renewables to 200% of its electricity use by 2040. This marks a serious start to establishing a renewable energy export economy, and includes funding and policy support to ramp up green hydrogen and ammonia production and begin exports by 2027. At the federal level, ARENA announced that its AU$ 70 million funding round for large-scale, “shovel-ready,” renewable hydrogen projects received applications representing over $3 billion of commercial investments. Australia’s renewable hydrogen industry has appetite and momentum, “and we’re seeing a lot of projects ready to be built.” As if to prove the point, two developers in two weeks have each announced hydrogen projects that could produce a million tons per year of ammonia. These are at opposite ends of the low-carbon spectrum: Leigh Creek Energy's in-situ gasification (ISG) coal-to-ammonia plant; and Austom Hydrogen's 3.6 GW green hydrogen export project.

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Project GERI: BP’s green ammonia feasibility study

This week, ARENA announced funding for the Geraldton Export-Scale Renewable Investment (GERI) Feasibility Study, led by BP Australia. While this project begins small, with a pilot-scale 20,000 ton per year green ammonia plant selling into domestic markets, it could lead to a 1,000,000 ton per year (1.5 GW capacity), export-oriented green ammonia plant.

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South Australia Planning Hydrogen Export Strategy

The state of South Australia earlier this month issued a tender for professional services under the title “Hydrogen Export Study, Modelling Tool and Prospectus.” The tender is a further step in the state’s campaign to become a major exporter of renewable energy in the form of green and/or blue hydrogen. The results of the study are expected to “inform key considerations such as locations for hydrogen production and export, volume of supply potential, the interdependencies of hydrogen supply chain infrastructure, and the landed cost of clean hydrogen exported from South Australia.”