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.
About 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the energy-intensive production of ammonia for use in fertilizer. Transformational opportunities for low-emission ammonia production include direct electrochemical and solar conversion processes, in addition to processes that could provide low-cost, low-emission hydrogen as an input into the more traditional ammonia production process.
Breakthrough Energy Coalition, Technical Quest: Zero-GHG Ammonia Production
Gates’s partners in the Coalition include many familiar names from the philanthropic world, including Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson, and Mark Zuckerberg.
Notably, however, the Coalition also includes a number of names linked to the global ammonia industry, like Aliko Dangote of the Dangote Group, soon to be one of the biggest ammonia producers in Africa; Ratan Tata, whose Tata Group just sold its Indian ammonia plant to Yara; HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal who, as Saudi royalty, might be considered to control about 2% of global ammonia capacity; and, not to forget, Bill Gates himself, who owns roughly 10% of OCI NV.
The coalition will act through a venture fund, which has defined its Investment Criteria as follows:
1. CLIMATE IMPACT: We will invest in technologies that have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least half a gigaton.
2. OTHER INVESTMENTS: We will invest in companies with real potential to attract capital from sources outside of BEV and the broader Breakthrough Energy Coalition.
3. SCIENTIFIC POSSIBILITY: We will invest in technologies with an existing scientific proof of concept that can be meaningfully advanced.
4. FILLING THE GAPS: We will invest in companies that need the unique attributes of BEV capital, including patience, judgment by scientific milestones, flexible investment capabilities, and a significant global network.
Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Investment Criteria
I’m hopeful that this group has the necessary combination of deep pockets, know-how, and motivation to make strides toward commercializing carbon-free ammonia synthesis technologies.
In any case, the Breakthrough Energy Coalition’s interest increases both the stakes and the schedule for everyone working in the field of sustainable ammonia, which is becoming increasingly competitive.