On October 11, the World Hydrogen Congress hosted a fireside chat that delved into the numerous possibilities of ammonia as a key player in the energy transition.
Richard Scott, ACME Group, led the discussion, joined by Jeremie Esquier from Technip Energies and Mark Tipping from Lloyd’s Register. The conversation revolved around the technical barriers, innovations in the supply chain, and the potential of green and blue ammonia in the global energy landscape.
Technical barriers and ammonia transportation
Ammonia has emerged as a key tool in the energy transition – and it’s not new to the industry. However, this popular bulk commodity will need to be transported at much larger volumes – with projections indicating a shift to larger, 130,000 m³ volume vessels.
The panellists agreed that there aren’t significant technical barriers to achieving this scaling. The real challenge lies in the infrastructure required for the production and transportation of ammonia. It is not as easy as converting existing infrastructure.
Innovations in the supply chain
Technip Energies has a history of working in the ammonia space, with an emphasis on green and low-carbon ammonia. Innovations are underway in various aspects of ammonia production and transportation.
Esquier highlighted key areas where innovation is making headway:
Hydrogen Burners: Development of hydrogen burners for use in existing combined heat and power (CHP) plants, which can be crucial in decarbonising industrial operations.
Post-Combustion Carbon Capture: Strategies to capture carbon emissions after combustion are being explored to reduce the carbon footprint of ammonia production.
Loading and Unloading Arms: Development of advanced loading and unloading systems to ensure safe and efficient handling of ammonia.
These developments are not just theoretical; they are on the brink of commercialisation. Ammonia loading and unloading arms are already in place for commercial use. This underscores the industry’s commitment to implementing cutting-edge technologies to improve safety and efficiency.
Can LNG Infrastructure be Converted for Ammonia?
Mark Tipping noted that, while technically possible, the challenges of conversion are considerable.
It’s more likely that the industry will see the construction of new vessels. These vessels may offer greater flexibility by accommodating multiple types of gases, making them a more economically viable option. The cost and time it would take to strip back existing carriers, to then make them suitable for ammonia, would be both financially and physically intricate.
Green and blue ammonia for global energy
The discussion also explored the future markets for ammonia. Low-carbon or zero-carbon ammonia is gaining traction in sectors such as the fertiliser industry. Blue ammonia is set to make an appearance, driven by the demand in Japan and Korea, where it will be used to decarbonise coal-fired power plants. Additionally, the shipping industry is a potential major consumer of ammonia as a clean and efficient fuel.
Notably, blue ammonia projects are emerging from the United States, thanks in part to subsidies and incentives. These projects are poised to boost the ammonia supply for various applications, including maritime transport.
The toxicity question
While it is true that ammonia is a highly toxic substance, the historical track record of safely transporting it in bulk suggests that the industry can manage the associated risks. Training and safety measures will be pivotal in ensuring ammonia’s safe use in various applications.
Ammonia as a hydrogen carrier
Ammonia also has the potential to decarbonise existing coal-fired power plants and create a nitrogen market. As such, exporting blue ammonia for these purposes is becoming a reality, making it a versatile player in the energy transition.
The World Hydrogen Congress discussion shed light on the promising role of ammonia in the evolving global energy landscape. Innovations and projects in blue and green ammonia production, safety measures, and potential markets are poised to shape the industry’s future. While challenges remain, ammonia’s versatility makes it a compelling contender in the quest for sustainable and cleaner energy sources.