ANNOUNCEMENT: The Australian chapter of the Ammonia Energy Association (AEA Australia) has announced details of its inaugural conference, which will take place on August 22 and 23, 2019, and will be held at CSIRO in Clayton, Victoria.
Entitled "Ammonia = Hydrogen 2.0," the conference will focus on the role of ammonia within the Australian hydrogen economy, specifically "Building an energy export industry using Green Ammonia." In addition to a full program of talks by invited speakers, networking events will include panel discussions, a poster session, and the conference dinner. Registration for the event is now open, with an early booking discount available until July 5.
This year's ammonia conference in Rotterdam, the third annual NH3 Event, begins two weeks from today. Since our guest post in March, announcing the initial roster of conference speakers, the organizers have confirmed new speakers, added more sessions, and announced further details.
The NH3 Event is a two-day conference, taking place on June 6 & 7, presenting "state of the art solutions and innovations on the subject of Sustainable Ammonia." Although the conference hall is already close to capacity, a few dozen tickets remain available through the NH3 Event website.
After two successful years, the NH3 Event returns on June 6 & 7 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, for the third edition. Ammonia is still an underestimated route to achieving a sustainable energy economy. At the NH3 Event, members of the energy community, including the public, NGOs, policy-makers, industries, and academics — including well-known experts, developers, and scientists — gather to present the latest research results and commercial achievements, and to discuss new application fields and business prospects for ammonia in energy solutions. And this year with very interesting names!
This week, Yara announced major progress toward producing "green ammonia" at its plant in Pilbara, Australia. Its new partner in this project is ENGIE, the global energy and services group, which last year made a major commitment to developing large-scale renewable hydrogen projects.
I first reported Yara's plans for a solar ammonia demonstration at its Pilbara plant in September 2017. This week's announcement means that the Pilbara project has moved to the next feasibility phase. However, major elements of the project have already been designed and built: during last year's scheduled turnaround for plant maintenance, the hydrogen piping tie-in was completed - meaning that the Haber-Bosch unit is ready to receive hydrogen directly, as soon as an electrolyzer has been built to supply it with renewable feedstock.
Last year, Yara Sluiskil, in the Netherlands, upgraded its existing ammonia plant by introducing a hydrogen pipeline connection, thereby reducing its reliance on fossil fuels. The pipeline was commissioned in October 2018 and now "ensures the efficient and safe transport of hydrogen," which was previously a waste-product at Dow's nearby ethylene cracker. Already, the project "delivers a CO2 saving of 10,000 tons" and a decrease in energy consumption of "0.15 petajoules (PJ) per year."
This is, perhaps, the first ammonia plant decarbonization revamp, and it shows that it is both possible and affordable to reduce emissions from existing ammonia plants today.
Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago that sits far above the Arctic Circle, is being considered for the back end of an electricity-to-ammonia-to-electricity (P2A2P) scheme. As reported in Norway's Teknisk Ukeblad (TU), the state-owned utility Statkraft has surfaced ammonia as one of four possible hydrogen-oriented solutions to meet Svalbard’s energy needs – and then short-listed it for further study.
Ammonia Energy has published posts covering pertinent activity in 32 different countries. In most of them, ammonia’s potential as versatile energy vector has reached the point of avowed interest from relevant institutions. In a small handful, it has become a part of national policy. But, as demonstrated in repeated instances throughout the year, nowhere is ammonia energy more robustly embraced than Australia. The central argument behind this assertion is captured in the phrase, “the complete package,” as in “package of resources, policies, players, partners, and investments.”
Last week, I wrote about a crucial new report that discusses four fuel technologies: batteries, hydrogen, ammonia, and nuclear. These could reduce the shipping sector's emissions in line with targets set in the IMO's Initial GHG Strategy. The report, Reducing CO2 Emissions to Zero, concludes that "all industry stakeholders ... need to get on with the job of developing zero CO2 fuels." This call to action should be consequential: it comes from the International Chamber of Shipping, an influential industry group that represents "more than 80% of the world merchant fleet."
This week, I provide an example of the kind of research required, with an update on a project that aims to demonstrate "the technical feasibility and cost effectiveness of an ammonia tanker fueled by its own cargo."
Although this project is still in its early days, I want to highlight three aspects that I believe will be crucial to its success. First, the work is being done by a consortium, bringing together many industry stakeholders, each with its own expertise and commercial interests. Second, the scope of research extends beyond conventional engine configurations to include not just new fuels but also new technology combinations; in other words, rather than assess new fuels in old engines, it aims to develop optimized propulsion designs for zero-emission fuels. And, third, its consideration of ammonia as a fuel begins with a comprehensive safety analysis.
On July 13, Science magazine, the flagship publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), published a 2,800-word “feature article" on ammonia energy. The article, headlined, “Liquid sunshine: Ammonia made from sun, air, and water could turn Australia into a renewable energy superpower,” is uniformly open-minded and upbeat. Its opening section ends with a quote from Monash University Professor of Physics and Chemistry Doug MacFarlane; “’Liquid ammonia is liquid energy,’ he says. ‘It's the sustainable technology we need.’”
MacFarlane helped launch the Australian chapter of the NH3 Fuel Association.
The newest ammonia plant on the planet has opened in Freeport, Texas.
A joint venture between Yara and BASF, this world-scale ammonia plant uses no fossil fuel feedstock. Instead, it will produce 750,000 metric tons of ammonia per year using hydrogen and nitrogen delivered directly by pipeline. The plant's hydrogen contract is structured so that the primary supply is byproduct hydrogen, rather than hydrogen produced from fossil fuels, and therefore the Freeport plant can claim that its ammonia has a significantly reduced carbon footprint.
This new ammonia plant demonstrates three truths. First, low-carbon merchant ammonia is available for purchase in industrial quantities today: this is not just technically feasible but also economically competitive. Second, carbon intensity is measured in shades of grey, not black and white. Ammonia is not necessarily carbon-free or carbon-full, but it has a carbon intensity that can quantified and, in a carbon-constrained economy, less carbon content equates to higher premium pricing. Third, the ammonia industry must improve its carbon footprinting before it can hope to be rewarded for producing green ammonia.