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The fertilizer industry is learning to love green ammonia

ANNUAL REVIEW 2019: Green ammonia is no longer a lonely venture for Yara, which used to appear alone among fertilizer producers in its desire to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from ammonia plants. While dozens of green ammonia demonstration projects and prototype technologies have been demonstrated in recent years, this progress was mostly achieved by energy companies and technology start-ups - and Yara. In the last year, however, fertilizer producers on five continents have begun feasibility studies, launched pilot demonstrations, or simply gone ahead and re-engineered their ammonia plants to replace fossil fuel inputs with renewable hydrogen.

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Green Ammonia Plants in Chile, Australia, New Zealand

Green ammonia plants are being announced quicker than I can report. Here is a summary of four new projects that propose to use electrolyzers, fed by renewable power, to produce hydrogen for ammonia production. These are big companies, operating in regions with excellent renewable resources, making significant investments in their future. In Chile, it is Enaex, a major ammonium nitrate manufacturer, supplying explosives to the mining industry. In Australia, it is Incitec Pivot, "the second largest supplier of explosives products and services in the world," and Wesfarmers, "the largest Australian company by revenue," according to Wikipedia. In New Zealand, it is Ballance-Agri Nutrients, a big farmers' co-operative and the country's sole fertilizer producer. Each aims to make its business "future-proof." The transition from fossil ammonia to renewable ammonia is underway.

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Green hydrogen feed for Haber Bosch ammonia synthesis

Yara is heading towards carbon free operations. The Renewable Ammonia Project that Yara is working on together with Engie for Yara Pilbara is one of the first major steps moving in this direction There are still many challenges ahead but Yara feels very well placed to be a key player and first mover in the renewable Ammonia space, supporting our drive to be the Crop Nutrition Company for the Future.

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Feeding Life 2030: the vision of Fertilizers Europe

Fertilizers Europe published an important report in late 2018 that examines key drivers for the fertilizer industry and describes the "likely developments expected between now and 2030." These developments include producing "perhaps 10%" of European ammonia from renewable electricity by using electrolyzers to generate renewable hydrogen feedstock. This would require scaling up green ammonia production capacity to more than a million tons per year, within ten years. The report, Feeding Life 2030, also describes the policy framework required "to sustain the Vision." In this vision, ammonia sits at "the crossroads of nutrition and energy" and is recognized as "the ‘missing link’ in the coming energy transformation."

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If green ammonia, whence urea? Stamicarbon’s Innovation Agenda

One of the most interesting unanswered questions surrounding green ammonia is this: what about urea? Last month, a major announcement by Stamicarbon ("the world market leader in design, licensing and development of urea plants") implies an answer: in the long-term context of climate change, urea as a fertilizer may simply need to be phased out. Stamicarbon announced its new Innovation Agenda at the company's "Future Day" event in Utrecht in April. Its Innovation Agenda covers three areas: speciality fertilizers, digitalization, and "Renewable production of fertilizer (using wind or solar energy to produce fertilizer)."

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Ammonia plant revamp to decarbonize: Yara Pilbara

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.

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Ammonia for Green Energy Storage and Beyond

Siemens is participating in an all electric ammonia synthesis and energy storage system demonstration programme at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, near Oxford. The demonstrator, which will run until December 2017, is supported by Innovate UK. Collaborators include the University of Oxford, Cardiff University and the Science & Technology Facilities Council.

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Using Renewable Energy to Produce NH3

Commercial production of Ammonia (NH3) is a large scale industrial process converting natural gas (or other fossil fuels) into gaseous hydrogen, which is catalytically reacted with nitrogen to form anhydrous liquid NH3. NH3 made from natural gas is responsible for approximately 5% of global natural gas consumption (around 2% of world energy). Hydrogen can be produced more simply and more sustainably by the electrolysis of water using renewable electricity. Thus decoupling NH3 production from fossil fuels and substantially decarbonising the process. This provides a means of utilising intermittent renewable electrical power to produce NH3 for use as a fertilizer, fuel…

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Production of Ammonia and Nitrogen Fertilizers based on Biomass – Research Efforts in Sweden

The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences have been conducting research on production of ammonia and nitrogen fertilizers based on bioenergy since 2006, in the last years in co-operation with Lund University and University of Minnesota. The research has so far been theoretical — studying the techno-economics and the potential environmental impacts. Several possible pathways for ammonia and ammonium nitrate fertilizer production have been explored, e.g. gasification of woody biomass, reforming of biogas from anaerobic digestion, integration in biomass CHP plants. A selection of results from the past years research can be presented: Techno-Economic Assessment of Non-Fossil Ammonia Production P. Tunå,…