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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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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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Low-carbon ammonia in Nebraska and the Netherlands

Last week, two new low-carbon ammonia production projects were announced, both of them large-scale and largely CO2-free. Monolith Materials announced a 275,000 ton per year “clean ammonia” plant in Nebraska, in the heart of the US cornbelt. The plant will begin construction in 2021, expanding the existing demonstration plant, using Monolith’s methane pyrolysis process powered by 100% renewable electricity. Ørsted and Yara announced their plan to produce 75,000 tons per year of “green ammonia” at Yara’s existing Sluiskil plant in the Netherlands. They intend to install a 100 MW electrolyzer, using Ørsted’s offshore wind energy, with a final investment decision expected in 2021-2022, and production beginning in 2024-2025.

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Hydrogen Stands Out in BP’s New Strategy

Last week oil major BP released its second quarter financial results – and used the occasion to share the company’s new strategy. “We aim to be a very different kind of energy company by 2030,” the company said, “as we scale up investment in low-carbon, focus our oil and gas production and make headway on reducing emissions.” “Investment in low-carbon” turns out to involve full embrace of the hydrogen paradigm circa 2020: power-to-gas; carbon capture, utilization, and storage; and the possibility of a “hydrogen export” business based on ammonia.

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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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Solar ammonia, available in Spain from 2021

Last week, Iberdrola and Fertiberia announced plans to start producing green ammonia for “fertilizantes libres de emisiones” (emission-free fertilizers). Iberdrola will invest EUR 150 million to build the 100 MW “Puertollano II” solar field, with a 20 MW electrolyzer bank to produce renewable hydrogen. Fertiberia will “update and modify” its existing Puertollano plant to consume this green hydrogen, reducing its natural gas use by “over 10%,” and producing green ammonia beginning in 2021.

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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.”