How green ammonia went from toxic chemical to fuel of the future

Like hydrogen, green ammonia can play a key role in decarbonizing Europe’s heavy industry and transport.

Ammonia has been the bet of the naval industry as one of the best fuels to achieve a cleaner energy mix, given its versatility and abundance, as well as ease of storage and transport. However, although the characteristics are favorable, it will still be a while before maritime transport can be powered by ammonia and leave a smaller footprint on the planet. Currently, the shipping industry is responsible for around 3% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

zero emissions shipping

In order to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, hydrogen-based fuels, such as ammonia, should account for 30% of marine fuels, informs a report by the International Energy Agency.

In the battle to reach net-zero by 2050, one thing has become clear: there is no single solution to get us there. Our best chances lie in fast-tracking a mix of zero or low-carbon technologies and fuels. Alongside renewables, carbon capture and hydrogen and many others, one candidate has so far been hiding in plain sight: ammonia.

Ammonia could help with decarbonisation in multiple ways.

It is typically produced by catalytic steam reforming from fossil fuels, generating around 1% of global CO₂ emissions. But it can also be synthesized by combining nitrogen with hydrogen produced carbon-free using renewable electricity.

green ammonia

By commercialising this renewable production of ammonia, the first sector to benefit from the resulting decarbonisation would be the fertiliser industry itself – and with it the food production supply chain.

Ammonia can also hold its own as a fuel: not only does it burn CO₂-free like hydrogen, but it has a higher energy density and is easier to store and transport than hydrogen, as it doesn’t require cryogenic storage.

While it has many advantages, ammonia is still a toxic chemical to humans and aquatic life.

Japanese engineering firm JGC and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology used electricity from renewable energies to produce “green ammonia,” focused on cleaning up the ammonia production process. After this experience, the JGC plans to build a clean chemical plant so that it is possible to make the most of the renewable energy produced.

Its purpose is to reduce the carbon dioxide produced by ammonia. Mentioning that “the amount of CO2 corresponds to 1 or 2% of world emissions”, administrator Kai Mototaka explained that “ammonia can be used in another sector, in a new market for energy, energy production and maritime transport”, the that will allow the reduction of the amount of CO2, “not just 1 or 2%, but much more”, he added.

Strong regulation favouring green ammonia is needed now to drive the necessary technical developments – regulation and technology must evolve in parallel. And, as ever, Europe must seek to embed its activities within an international context and work across stakeholders to speed up ammonia’s market readiness.

green hydrogen

Our work with green ammonia

Universal Kraft works with green ammonia as an alternative to fossil fuels, providing the same functionality on a large scale. These green power alternatives are fundamental for a sustainable and complete clean energy transition. Universal Kraft has been working on alternative and innovative energy carriers and storage solutions for a number of years. To optimize the decarbonization potential of renewables for the generation of green hydrogen and ammonia we created the company Universal H2. Discover all our projects here.

Also read Net-zero emissions: the role of green ammonia

Based on the article: Multinews

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