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The full picture: an assessment of shipping’s emissions must be based on full lifecycle accounting

When you go to see a film in the cinema, the closing credits go on for another five minutes after the film is over. Although few moviegoers stay to read them, the lengthy credit rolls clearly show that a blockbuster is not just about actors but also about the hundreds of people behind the scenes. These people are as important as the main actors in the movie making process. A similar situation occurs with a ship’s climate emissions: if we only account for what’s coming out of the stacks, we don’t understand the real climate impact of the fuel. The full life-cycle of emissions contributes to climate pollution, and we need to recognise their role in climate change. Shipping is an industry with long-term planning horizons and long-lived assets. It is crucial that policy makers in the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the European Union (EU) provide clear guidance and a robust policy framework to account for the full climate impact of fuels.

Paper

Life-cycle analysis of green ammonia and its application as fertilizer building block

Conventionally, ammonia is produced from natural gas via steam methane reforming, water-gas shift reaction, and Haber-Bosch process. The process uses fossil fuels extensively and leads to 2.7 ton of CO2 emission per ton ammonia produced. With ammonia being the second largest chemical produced in the world, its production accounts for approximately 2% of worldwide fossil fuel use and generates over 420 million tons of CO2 annually. To decarbonize the ammonia sector, green ammonia synthesis pathways are of increasing interest. Green ammonia originates from air, water, and renewable electricity, and thus could be produced with low or zero carbon emissions. Since…

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Yara and BASF open their brand-new, world-scale plant, producing low-carbon ammonia

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.

Article

Optimizing technology pathways for Ammonia Fuel: production, transportation, and use

A paper has just been published by researchers in The Philippines who set out to determine the most environmentally benign way to produce, transport, and use ammonia as a fuel for vehicles. This new work provides a detailed life cycle analysis of a broad range of ammonia technologies, evaluating both carbon and nitrogen footprints of each, and identifying the optimal "well-to-wheel" pathway. Their results support the idea that using ammonia for energy presents a safe and sustainable way to bring about the hydrogen economy.

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Breakthrough Energy Coalition targets carbon-free ammonia

A multi-billion dollar clean energy innovation fund was launched last year, at the Paris climate conference. Led by Bill Gates, the private funding enterprise aimed to develop "groundbreaking new carbon-neutral technologies," without specifying details. Now, the Breakthrough Energy Coalition is starting work, and one of its initial Technical Quests is to make "Zero-GHG Ammonia Production" a reality.

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How to create a market for low-carbon ammonia: product labeling

I wrote last week about ARPA-E's "transformative" ammonia synthesis technologies, describing three technology pathways under development: low pressure Haber-Bosch, electrochemical processes, and advanced electrolysis. ARPA-E's ambitious R&D program might imply that a meaningful, commercial market for sustainable ammonia is still decades away. It represents, however, only the slow American tip of a fast-moving global iceberg. In Japan, where there's no debate about climate science, the national effort is already well underway, with three programs to develop low-carbon ammonia synthesis under the Cross-ministerial Strategic Innovation Promotion Program (SIP), 'Energy Carriers.'

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Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of NH3 as a Transportation Fuel in Ontario

A recent paper from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, published in June 2016, provides new data on the relative efficiency and safety of using ammonia as a transportation fuel. It presents a cradle-to-grave "comparative life cycle assessment" for a range of vehicles, encompassing the vehicle cycles (manufacturing, maintenance, and disposal) and the fuel cycle (operation).

Paper

Key Life Cycle Assessment Numbers for NH3, Green and Brown Energy

This talk will present the results of two recent studies. In the first study, four different ammonia production methods are comparatively evaluated using life cycle assessment (LCA). The proposed ammonia production systems consist of an electrolyzer for hydrogen production and a Haber-Bosch plant for ammonia synthesis. The required energy for the systems are utilized from various resources namely hydropower, nuclear, biomass and municipal waste. Life cycle assessment methodology is used to identify and quantify environmental impacts in global warming potential, human toxicity and abiotic depletion categories of each method during the life cycle of the systems. The proposed non-conventional ammonia…