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Maersk and partners launch Center for Zero Carbon Shipping

This morning, the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping was announced. Launched with a “start-up donation” of DKK 400 million (USD 60 million) from the A.P. Møller Foundation, this new research institute intends “to develop new fuel types and technologies,” to decarbonize the maritime sector. Behind the Center for Zero Carbon Shipping is a significant industrial consortium with seven founding members (actively seeking additional partners): ABS, A.P. Moller – Maersk, Cargill, MAN Energy Solutions, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, NYK Lines, and Siemens Energy.

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Maritime Ammonia: ready for demonstration

At least four major maritime ammonia projects have been announced in the last few weeks, each of which aims to demonstrate an ammonia-fueled vessel operating at sea. In Norway, Color Fantasy, the world's largest RORO cruise liner, will pilot ammonia fuel. Across the broader Nordic region, the Global Maritime Forum has launched NoGAPS, a major consortium that aims to deploy "the world's first ammonia powered deep sea vessel" by 2025. In Japan, a new industry consortium has launched that goes beyond on-board ship technology to include "owning and operating the ships, supplying ammonia fuel and developing ammonia supply facilities." And the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT), which published its roadmap last month, aims to demonstrate ammonia fuel on "an actual ship from 2028" — specifically, a 80,000 dwt ammonia-fueled bulk carrier.

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Gigastack Phase 2 Receives Funding in the UK

Earlier this week the United Kingdom’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced that a group led by ITM Power has been awarded GBP 7.5 million (USD $9.7 million) for the second phase of a renewable hydrogen project dubbed “Gigastack.” According to the BEIS announcement, “Gigastack will demonstrate the delivery of bulk, low-cost and zero-carbon hydrogen through ITM Power’s gigawatt scale polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolysers . . .” with the goal of “dramatically reduc[ing] the cost of electrolytic hydrogen.” The hydrogen produced will be used for petroleum refining, although the project partners have their eyes on opportunities that go well beyond desulfurization of oil.

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MAN ammonia engine update

In November 2019, MAN ES published a technical paper describing the design and performance of its two-stroke green-ammonia engine. The paper also quietly announces the intentions of MAN ES to exploit ammonia energy technologies in a new business case, Power-to-X (PtX, "the carbon-neutral energy storage and sector coupling technology of the future"). In other words, MAN is moving into green ammonia fuel production.

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Electrified Methane Reforming Could Reduce Ammonia’s CO2 Footprint

A May 2019 paper published in Science reports on a technological advance that may have significant implications for ammonia production. The paper, Electrified methane reforming: A compact approach to greener industrial hydrogen production, presents a method for providing the heat required for steam methane reforming from renewable electricity instead of natural gas. The carbon intensity of ammonia production could thereby be reduced by about 30%. And, last month, Haldor Topsøe announced that it plans to build a demonstration plant in Denmark that will produce “CO2-neutral methanol from biogas using eSMR technology.” The plant is expected to be “fully operational in the beginning of 2022.”

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A rigorous protocol for measuring electrochemical ammonia synthesis rates

NEWS BRIEF: A paper published this week in Nature addresses the challenge of accurately reporting synthesis rates for electrochemical ammonia production technologies. According to the authors, from Stanford University, the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), and Imperial College London, it is not always clear if new technologies really synthesize ammonia, or if the researchers simply measured contaminants. This is because, at experimental scale, materially significant amounts of ammonia (or other nitrogen-containing molecules) could be present in the air, membranes, catalysts, or simply the researchers' breath. To support the development of viable electrochemical ammonia synthesis technologies, the authors propose "benchmarking protocols," and "a standardized set of control experiments."

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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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MAN Energy Solutions: an ammonia engine for the maritime sector

In June 2018, MAN Diesel & Turbo rebranded itself MAN Energy Solutions, reflecting the maritime engine market leader's "strategic and technological transformation" towards sustainability. The company was "taking a stand for the Paris Climate Agreement and the global pursuit of a carbon-neutral economy." According to Uwe Lauber, Chairman of the Board, "our activities have a significant impact on the global economy. In shipping, for example, we move more than half of the global stream of goods ... [and] the path to decarbonising the maritime economy starts with fuel decarbonisation, especially in container shipping." This week, the company took a significant step towards realizing its vision, disclosing that it is "pressing ahead with developing ... an ammonia-fuelled engine." This builds on the technology development pathway that MAN ES presented at the NH3 Energy+ Topical Conference at Pittsburgh in October 2018. The budget and timeline are set: the €5 million (USD$5.7 million) project will last two to three years and, if the shipowners decide to deploy the finished product, "the first ammonia engine could then be in operation by early 2022."

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Siemens Gamesa investigating green ammonia pilot plant in Denmark

Another week, another green ammonia pilot plant. Siemens Gamesa, the world's largest wind turbine manufacturer (by installed capacity), has announced a partnership with local climate innovation fund Energifonden Skive to investigate the production of ammonia from wind power at an eco-industrial hub in Denmark's "Green Tech Valley." The announcement describes "an agreement to jointly explore eco-friendly ammonia production as a way to store surplus electricity from wind turbines. The goal: a pilot plant at GreenLab Skive."