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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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AEA Australia Announces 2020 Conference

Pandemic or no pandemic, the Australian chapter of the Ammonia Energy Association (AEA Australia) will hold a second edition of its Ammonia = Hydrogen 2.0 Conference this year. The event will be held on a virtual basis on August 27 and 28 from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. (Australian Eastern Standard Time) each day. The conference tagline is “Building an energy export industry using Green Ammonia.” Its themes this year will be “green ammonia production — jobs for the regions;” “ammonia as maritime bunker fuel;” and “ammonia certification schemes.” The opening address, entitled “Ammonia — is it a fuel, or is it an energy carrier?” will be given by Alan Finkel, Chief Scientist of the Australian Government.

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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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Monash team publishes Ammonia Economy Roadmap

Earlier this month, Doug MacFarlane and his team of researchers at Monash University published A Roadmap to the Ammonia Economy in the journal Joule. The paper charts an evolution of ammonia synthesis “through multiple generations of technology development and scale-up.” It provides a clear assessment of “the increasingly diverse range of applications of ammonia as a fuel that is emerging,” and concludes with perspectives on the “broader scale sustainability of an ammonia economy,” with emphasis on the Nitrogen Cycle. The Roadmap is brilliant in its simple distillation of complex and competing technology developments across decades. It assesses the sustainability and scalability of three generations of ammonia synthesis technologies. Put simply, Gen1 is blue ammonia, Gen2 is green ammonia, and Gen3 is electrochemical ammonia. It also outlines the amount of research and development required before each could be broadly adopted (“commercial readiness”). The paper thus provides vital clarity on the role that each generation of technology could play in the energy transition, and the timing at which it could make its impact.

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CSIRO at Work on SOEC Technology

Earlier this month the on-line trade journal gasworld published an interview with CSIRO's Ani Kulkarni that illuminated a research program focused on solid oxide electrolysis technology. The takeaway is that the CSIRO program is making progress that can, in Kulkarni’s words, “elevate this technology from the lab bench to become cost-effective at an industrial scale.”

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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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Industry consortium announces feasibility study for co-firing ammonia in thermal power plants

In March 2020, IHI Corporation, JERA Co., and Marubeni Corporation announced a feasibility study "to evaluate possible applications for the co-firing of ammonia in thermal power plants." The Japanese companies have contracted with NEDO to deliver detailed technical and economic analysis on the use of ammonia as a direct fuel for power generation. In addition, with support from Woodside Energy in Australia, they "will examine the construction and operation of world-scale ammonia facilities and the optimisation of supply chain costs" to support "large-scale export of hydrogen as ammonia."

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Green Financing Sighted in Australia’s Ammonia Industry

Last month the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) announced that it has “signed an AUD $400 million [USD $256 million] three-year bilateral sustainability-linked loan” with Australian conglomerate Wesfarmers. This represents at least the second occasion on which an ammonia producer has linked its cost of capital to progress in meeting sustainability goals. In July 2019, Yara announced that it had signed a USD $1.1 billion revolving credit facility with a group of 13 lenders whose margin “will be adjusted based on Yara’s progress to meet its carbon intensity target by 2025.”