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Series Presents Japanese Perspective on Ammonia as a CO2-Free Fuel

From 2014 to 2018, I served as Deputy Program Director of SIP “Energy Carriers” under Mr. Shigeru Muraki, Program Director, and alongside my fellow Deputy Program Director, Dr. Ken-ichi Aika. After helping to bring the Energy Carriers' work to a successful conclusion, I decided to write a series of articles that describe prospects for ammonia as a CO2-free fuel and hydrogen carrier, as well as activities to construct a value chain of CO2-free ammonia. The articles were published in the on-line journal of Japan’s International Environment and Economy Institute (IEEI).

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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.”

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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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Saudi Arabia to export renewable energy using green ammonia

Last week, Air Products, ACWA Power, and NEOM announced a $5 billion, 4 gigawatt green ammonia plant in Saudi Arabia, to be operational by 2025. Air Products, the exclusive off-taker, intends to distribute the green ammonia globally and crack it back to “carbon-free hydrogen” at the point of use, supplying hydrogen refueling stations. According to Air Products’ presentation on the project, “our focus is fueling hydrogen fuel cell buses and trucks.” This will be one of the first projects to be built in the industrial hub of NEOM, a futuristic “model for sustainable living.” NEOM is a key element in Vision 2030, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plan to diversify the Saudi Arabian economy and reduce dependence on oil revenues. In other words, Saudi Arabia is establishing itself as “a global leader in green hydrogen production and green fuels.”

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Europe!

Earlier this month Germany announced the adoption of a National Hydrogen Strategy. This is the latest piece to fall into place for the European Union’s broad strategy to become a zone of comprehensive sustainability. The German plan comes a few beats after the European Commission's unveiling of its Green Deal framework, but Germany is positioning itself as the organizational hub for the Green Deal's hydrogen energy elements.

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Engie, Siemens, Ecuity, and STFC publish Feasibility of Ammonia-to-Hydrogen

The UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) recently published the feasibility study for its Ammonia to Green Hydrogen Project. This studies the techno-economic feasibility of importing green ammonia in order to supply large volumes of high-purity low-carbon hydrogen in the UK. The project has been designed and delivered by a heavyweight consortium of ENGIE, Siemens, Ecuity Consulting, and the UK’s STFC. The feasibility study, which is publicly available, represents the conclusion of Phase One of this project. Phase Two is demonstration: “to raise the TRL of a lithium imide based ammonia cracker from 4 to 6/7,” meaning that the technology is ready for deployment.

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Hydrogen Prioritized in New ARENA Investment Plan

On September 11, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) issued its 2019 Investment Plan. The theme of the accompanying press release is “sharpening our focus,” and indeed the agency articulates just three investment priorities: “integrating renewables into the electricity system;” “accelerating the growth of a hydrogen industry;” and “supporting industry to reduce emissions.” The prioritization of hydrogen – and with it, ammonia as a possible hydrogen carrier – is a new development for ARENA.

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Engie, Siemens, STFC, and Ecuity awarded funding for green ammonia-to-hydrogen in UK

Last week, the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced a "£390 million government investment to reduce emissions from industry," with a focus on low-carbon hydrogen supply and clean steel production. As part of this investment, a consortium led by Ecuity Consulting that includes Siemens, Engie, and the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC), has been awarded £249,000 to perform "valuable research on the role of ammonia in the delivery of low cost bulk hydrogen for use in the UK energy system."

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Study Models NH3 Economics from Variable Energy Resources

Last week IEA Consultant Julien Armijo and IEA Senior Analyst Cédric Philibert submitted their study Flexible Production of Green Hydrogen and Ammonia from Variable Solar and Wind Energy:  Case Study of Chile and Argentina to the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy and concurrently posted it on ResearchGate.  The study addresses one of the key questions of the energy transition: what are the economics of producing hydrogen, or a hydrogen carrier such as ammonia, at sites with excellent renewable energy resources?  The answer, framed in terms of the cost-competitiveness in local markets of green ammonia vs. conventionally produced brown ammonia, casts an encouraging light on the eventual prospects for international trade in green ammonia as an energy commodity.