Category: Sustainable Ammonia

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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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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Ammonia production causes 1% of total global GHG emissions

I often come across this statistic: the ammonia industry is responsible for 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Where did this "1%" number come from?

If you look at the footnotes, you realize that the sources for this statistic are decades old; most citations lead to Vaclav Smil's Enriching the Earth, published in 2000. Nonetheless:

The statistic holds true today - the number is closer to 1.024%, as I'll demonstrate.

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Urea production is not carbon sequestration

To make urea, fertilizer producers combine ammonia with carbon dioxide (CO2), but when farmers apply that urea to the soil, an equal amount of CO2 is emitted to the atmosphere. No CO2 is permanently stored or sequestered through the production of urea.

This is a statement of the obvious, I'm told, but it's worth stating for three reasons. First, not everyone knows it. Second, there was zero data in the academic literature supporting the fact, until now (see below). And third, next generation ammonia-urea plants with "zero-emissions" are becoming a reality, despite some of these new technologies relying on fossil fuel feedstocks.

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