Grand Challenges in Sustainable Ammonia Synthesis – DOE Roundtable Report, 2016

Earlier this year, the US Department of Energy (DOE) hosted a day-long meeting "to explore the scientific challenges associated with discovering alternative, sustainable processes for ammonia production."

The report that came out of this roundtable discussion presents the participants' views on "the current state-of-the-art and the potential challenges and research opportunities ... for heterogeneous catalysis and homogeneous and enzyme catalysis."

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OCI announces merger with OCI

I wrote last week about Iowa Fertilizer Company's greenfield plant at Wever, IA, and mentioned that OCI NV had begun hinting about mergers and acquisitions activity in recent disclosures.

This "phase of consolidation" has now begun for the Dutch owner of both the world-scale plant under construction at Wever, IA, and the ammonia-methanol plant operating at Beaumont, TX.

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Grannus awards EPC contract

Grannus awarded two contracts for design and technology licensing in November, and it has started December with a third announcement, naming its new EPC partner.

Yesterday's announcement, which sees the previous engineering partner entirely replaced, focuses on the company's business model, which is not to be an ammonia producer, but to be a global licensor of regional-scale ammonia plant technology.

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AM Agrigen: new strategy for Louisiana ammonia plant

AM Agrigen has had its air permit extended for another year (unlike one other proposed greenfield) but, in its application, disclosed a completely different plan for the project.

For over a year, I've been commenting on the creativity that ammonia project developers have been forced to display, in order to demonstrate a viable business model.

The remaining pipeline of potential new ammonia plants has shifted away from brand-new, multi-billion dollar, world-scale plants producing multiple end products; these demonstrated good efficiencies of scale but became - evidently - almost unfundable.

Now the focus is on developing smaller ammonia plants, using diverse feedstocks, and avoiding as much new machinery as possible.

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OCI Wever update: rising costs, mergers and acquisitions, bond refinancing, no start-up yet

Over the last few weeks, Iowa Fertilizer Company and its parent, OCI NV, have been busy with the commissioning phase of their major greenfield at Wever, IA. However, they've also been restructuring bond payments, which was necessary "to ensure the successful completion of construction and first year of operations."

In the process, we've seen the bond rating downgraded, the IRS launch an examination, disclosures of project costs rising further, and hints at future mergers & acquisitions.

OCI has successfully refinanced the project. They hope to start producing ammonia soon but, if history is any guide, defining "soon" may be difficult.

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Grannus awards engineering and licensing contracts (again)

In the last two weeks, Grannus LLC has awarded two contracts for process design and technology licensing: the first for hydrogen production, and the second for the ammonia loop.

These replace the engineering contract announced earlier this year, and bring the "zero-emission" ammonia plant closer to reality - albeit with a revised start-up schedule.

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Midwest Fertilizer’s EPC contractor, TKIS: kickbacks, gifts, lawsuits, and resignations

In case you wondered why the CEO of ThyssenKrupp Industrial Services resigned last week in Germany, it's all because of Midwest Fertilizer Company's greenfield plant in Indiana - and the (alleged) shenanigans involved in securing the Midwest EPC contract from Fatima Fertilizer Company in Pakistan.

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AdvanSix updates at Hopewell

Now that Honeywell has spun off its Resins and Chemicals division into the standalone AdvanSix Inc, we finally have some corporate transparency about plant operations.

In its first independent announcements over the last two weeks, notably including an operational update and its Q3 2016 earnings report, AdvanSix has provided lots of details of its financial and operational performance, and specified - for the first time - the plant's ammonia capacity.

Also, we learned that the planned turnaround in the fourth quarter was extended by two weeks of unplanned maintenance, which will hit Q4 2016 earnings to the tune of $20-25 million.

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Low-carbon ammonia synthesis: Japan’s ‘Energy Carriers’ R&D

In 2018, a pilot plant in Japan will demonstrate a new way to produce ammonia at industrial-scale, with a low carbon footprint.

This is part of Japan's 'Energy Carriers' R&D initiative, which aims to develop technologies to enable the nation's transition to a carbon-free hydrogen economy.

The scope of the program covers ten subjects that encompass the full "CO2-free hydrogen value chain." Three of these ten programs describe a technology pathway for making low-carbon ammonia.

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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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ARPA-E’s “transformative” ammonia synthesis technologies

The US Department of Energy's Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA-E) is funding projects with a view to commercializing low- and zero-carbon ammonia synthesis technologies.

Grigorii Soloveichik, ARPA-E Program Director, described the aims and challenges of his agency's initiative and introduced the technologies currently in development in his keynote presentation at the recent NH3 Fuel Conference, in September 2016.

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The Water Intensity of Ammonia

Agrium continues to plan for the potential restart of its ammonia-urea plant in Kenai, Alaska: its draft water permit is now entering a 30-day public comment period.

However, the fact sheet for the draft permit contains one particularly interesting chart, which follows below, to illustrate the water flows throughout the ammonia-urea plant. In an industry that holds its data close, this is a refreshingly detailed flow chart.

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Longview, WA — Pacific Coast Fertilizer

OWNER: Pacific Coast Fertilizer (joint venture)
PROJECT: Brownfield ammonia plant

SUMMARY STATUS: Planning Phase
First announced in September 2016, Pacific Coast Fertilizer is presently in the "project definition stage." While the announcement focused on one potential site, the project has yet to confirm a location. This major project has been in development for some time, and claims some heavyweight industrial partners.

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The Investment Case for Sustainable Ammonia Synthesis Technologies

This website will remain a project tracker for ammonia capacity expansions.

However, it will also begin reporting on - and agitating for - the development and deployment of new, sustainable ammonia synthesis technologies.

I will feature projects from my (extensive) database of pre- and post-commercialization ammonia synthesis technologies, and demonstrate the commercial benefits of moving this mature industry beyond the acceptance of the technical limits of Haber-Bosch.

To start with, I'm presenting a conference paper next week to introduce "The Investment Case for Sustainable Ammonia Synthesis Technologies." My paper will be available online after the conference, and my abstract follows below.

You're welcome to check out next week's NH3 Fuel Conference, which is hosted by UCLA, in Los Angeles, on Monday 9/19 and Tuesday 9/20.

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POT+AGU merger is on

The merger of equals between PotashCorp and Agrium was confirmed to be moving ahead this morning, in a press release announcing their boards' unanimous approval of the plan "to Create a World-Class Integrated Global Supplier of Crop Inputs."

"A new parent company will be formed to own both companies. PotashCorp shareholders will receive 0.400 common shares of the new company for each common share of PotashCorp they own, and Agrium shareholders will receive 2.230 common shares of the new company for each common share of Agrium they own."

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