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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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United Nations Sparks Green Hydrogen Initiative

Last month UN Climate Change announced an initiative whose goal is to scale up green hydrogen production significantly over the next six years. “The new ‘Green Hydrogen Catapult’ initiative will see green hydrogen industry leaders, including ACWA Power, CWP Renewables, Envision, Iberdrola, Ørsted, Snam, and Yara, target the deployment of 25 gigawatts through 2026 of renewables-based hydrogen production, with a view to halve the current cost of hydrogen to below US$2 per kilogram.”

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Full electrification: Yara plans 500,000 tons of green ammonia in Norway by 2026

Green ammonia projects continue to be announced at dizzying speed and scale. A few weeks ago, Origin Energy disclosed its feasibility study to develop 500 MW (hydro) / 420,000 tons per year of green ammonia in Tasmania, with first production targeted for mid-2020s. This week, a consortium led by Haldor Topsoe and Vestas announced 10 MW (wind+solar) / 5,000 tons of green ammonia in Denmark, which could be operational in 2022, making it the first green ammonia plant at this scale. Also this week, Yara made a significant corporate announcement, detailing a “transformation of its commercial business models, sales channels and offerings,” with the full decarbonization of its Porsgrunn plant at the heart of its strategy to use green ammonia “to enable the hydrogen economy.”

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Green Ammonia at Oil and Gas Scale: Ammonia Energy Conference 2020 Keynote

What does green ammonia look like at oil and gas scale? To open the Ammonia Energy Conference 2020 - and give us some insights into this question - we were thrilled to welcome Alex Tancock, Managing Director of InterContinental Energy (ICE). Since 2014 ICE has been in the business of identifying the new generation of “Green Supergiants”: green hydrogen and green ammonia fusion projects based on large-scale renewable energy. Alex was excited to pass on the key lessons learnt from the development of ICE’s first publicized project - the Asian Renewable Energy Hub (AREH) in north-western Australia.

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Panel discussion on next-generation ammonia synthesis

This year’s Ammonia Energy Conference included a panel discussion on next-generation ammonia synthesis, moderated by Sarb Giddey (CSIRO, Australia), and featuring panelists Doug MacFarlane (Monash University, Australia), Karthish Manthiram (MIT, United States), and Michael Stoukides (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece). The panel discussed the direct fixation of nitrogen in the form of ammonia from water and air in a single electrochemical device, which is considered the “holy grail” of ammonia synthesis. During the panel, the participants gave their perspectives on the state of the art, and the obstacles and opportunities for progress.

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Fortescue Making Major Move into Green Energy

Last week the Sydney Morning Herald featured this headline: "Fortescue to take on fossil fuel giants with expansion into green energy." Bold words, but it turns out the headline does not overstate Fortescue’s ambitions for its new business, Fortescue Future Industries (FFI). “FFI will finance, develop and operate renewable energy projects including green hydrogen and green ammonia plants,” the accompanying story says, with the "aim to build 235 gigawatts of installed energy capacity.”

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The Cost of CO2-free Ammonia

If ammonia is to be introduced into the energy system as a CO2-free fuel, its cost must be at least competitive with that of other CO2-free fuels such as CO2-free hydrogen. In the discussion below I consider the cost aspect of CO2-free ammonia. To state my conclusion at the beginning, the cost of CO2-free ammonia can be less than 30 yen/Nm3-H2, which is the 2030 cost target for hydrogen energy set by the Japanese government in its "Basic Hydrogen Strategy” for introducing hydrogen energy into Japan.

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Green ammonia in Australia, Spain, and the United States

The ammonia industry is transitioning towards sustainability at remarkable speed. In the last week alone, three major project announcements signal the availability of millions of tons of low-carbon ammonia this decade, and enthusiasm for rapid and complete transformation of the industry. Decarbonizing ammonia is no longer viewed as a challenge — now, this is quite clearly an opportunity.

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Communique from the AEA Australia 2020 conference

AEA Australia’s second annual Ammonia = Hydrogen 2.0 conference took place at the end of August, hosted virtually by Monash University with the support of CSIRO. Alan Finkel, Australia’s Chief Scientist, gave the opening address, “Ammonia — is it a fuel, or is it an energy carrier?” The conference keynote speech was given by Rob Stevens of Yara, entitled “The role of Ammonia in a hydrogen economy.”

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Hyundai joins Fortescue and CSIRO to “fast track” ammonia to high-purity hydrogen system

Fortescue recently announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Hyundai Motor Company and CSIRO for the “development and future commercialisation” of its metal membrane technology. This technology, which produces high-purity compressed hydrogen from liquid ammonia, was demonstrated in 2018. It enables PEM fuel cell vehicles to refuel using hydrogen that is generated on demand from ammonia. At scale, this technology could enable an ammonia-based hydrogen production, storage, and distribution infrastructure, lowering the barriers to implementation of a national network of hydrogen filling stations. Now, “Hyundai will seek to demonstrate the viability of the technology for renewable hydrogen production and vehicle fuelling in Korea.”