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Ontario Tech Develops Its Own Flavor of Direct Ammonia Fuel Cell

How simple can a fuel cell be? How about if it’s a direct ammonia fuel cell? This question came to mind during perusal of a paper that appeared in the June 2019 edition of the journal Chemical Engineering Science. The paper, “Development and performance evaluation of a direct ammonia fuel cell stack,” was written by Osamah Siddiqui and Ibrahim Dincer, both active within the Clean Energy Research Laboratory at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) in Canada. Their design may or may not ever reach the point of commercialization, but there is no denying its essential simplicity.

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Ammonia-fueled ships: entering the design phase

Three separate projects to design a range of ammonia-fueled vessels were announced last week at a shipping industry conference in China. Lloyd's Register has granted Approval in Principle (AiP) for the design of a 180,000 ton bulk carrier. ABS announced a project to "produce designs for an ammonia-fueled Chittagongmax container carrier of 2700 TEU capacity." And Lloyd's Register also announced a project for "an ammonia-fuelled 23,000 TEU Ultra-Large Container Ship (ULCS) concept design." All three projects are working with the two-stroke ammonia engine developed by MAN Energy Solutions, and all are led by major shipbuilders in China.

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Small-Scale Ammonia Synthesis Technology on Track for 2021

On October 6, 2019, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun published an article that confirmed a goal set at the 2017 launch of Japanese chemical technology developer Tsubame BHB. The goal is to have Tsubame’s ammonia synthesis technology ready for licensing in 2021. According to Tsubame’s English-language Web site, its technology “makes it possible to produce ammonia even at small-scale plants” – good news for ammonia energy project developers interested in distributed production concepts.

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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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Technology Advances for Blue Hydrogen and Blue Ammonia

ANNUAL REVIEW 2019: Blue hydrogen – defined as the version of the element whose production involves carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) – represents an alluring prospect for the energy transition.  The primary “blue” feedstocks, natural gas and coal, currently set the low-cost benchmarks for storable energy commodities.  With the addition of CCS, they are expected to set the low-cost benchmarks for low-carbon storable energy commodities.  Blue ammonia is very much included in this frame of reference since CCS could be applied to the CO2 waste stream from the Haber-Bosch process.  But neither blue hydrogen nor blue ammonia are sure things; a variety of technical, financial, regulatory, and social issues could stand in the way of their widespread adoption. But work on new technologies that have the potential to ease the way for blue products has come increasingly into view over the last twelve months.

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Ammonia in the Mix as an Industrial Energy Source

ANNUAL REVIEW 2019: The generation of heat for industrial processes accounts for approximately 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions – which means that finding ways to eliminate this climate footprint is among the pressing technology tasks on our societal to-do list. Developments over the last 12 months suggest that ammonia could play an important role in meeting this challenge.

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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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Israeli Group Develops New Electrolysis Technology

Last month a group of researchers from the Technion Israel Institute of Technology published a paper, “Decoupled hydrogen and oxygen evolution by a two-step electrochemical–chemical cycle for efficient overall water splitting,” in the journal Nature Energy.  The key word in the title is “efficient.”  In a September 15 Technion press release, the researchers state that their technology “facilitates an unprecedented energetic efficiency of 98.7% in the production of hydrogen from water.”  Applied to the appropriate use case, the technology could lead to a major improvement in green ammonia’s ability to compete with brown ammonia and other low-carbon energy carriers.

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Maritime ammonia engines in Japan; ammonia shipbuilding in South Korea

This week, Japan Engine Corporation (J-ENG) announced the launch of a new R&D program, in collaboration with the National Maritime Research Institute, that focuses on engine development for "combustion of carbon-free fuel (e.g. hydrogen and ammonia)." Five hundred miles across the Sea of Japan, DSME has completed a techno-economic feasibility study comparing three fuels: HFO (with scrubber), LNG, and ammonia. The results of this study will be presented at the Ammonia Energy Conference, in Orlando, FL, on November 13. DSME is one of the three big shipbuilders in South Korea, and its business case for ammonia is strong enough that now "DSME is planning to expand our technology and business to NH3 engineering and systems for commercial ships."