Power to Ammonia

The Institute for Sustainable Process Technology has just published a feasibility study that represents a major step toward commercializing renewable ammonia.

It examines the "value chains and business cases to produce CO2-free ammonia," analysing the potential for commercial deployment at three companies with existing sites in The Netherlands: Nuon at Eemshaven, Stedin at Goeree-Overflakkee, and OCI Nitrogen at Geleen. The project is called Power to Ammonia.

The team behind it is an industrial powerhouse with serious intentions, and this feasibility study is the first part of their plan: next come the pilot plants and demonstrations. As OCI Nitrogen explains, "there are still many hurdles to be overcome. By setting up pilots for this new technology, we can identify these and find ways to solve them."

Read more

Waggaman, LA: owner ramps up, EPC books loss

Dyno Nobel's new plant at Waggaman, LA, is producing ammonia above its daily rated capacity. Conversely, total production in 2017 is expected to be closer to 80% of annual capacity, because it is likely to be taken offstream regularly this year while it ramps up.
This article discusses the early performance of the Waggaman ammonia plant, and the cost overruns it saw during construction.

Read more

Pipeline of new urea expansions (2017 update part 2)

2016 was a transformative year for the North American ammonia industry but, in 2017, the bigger impact will be on the urea industry.

Here's an update on four urea expansions expected on-stream this year and next, which will add almost two million tons of new urea capacity. In the process, they'll reduce the amount of ammonia that's available for sale by more than one million tons.

And, as a bonus, I have news on an embattled "clean coal" project that, in what might be a last gasp attempt at a viable business model, could potentially add another 1.5 million tons of urea in Texas.

Read more

Industrial demonstrations of ammonia fuel in Japan

Most of the ammonia energy projects I write about are in the research and development phase but, as I've said before, technology transfer from the academic lab to commercial deployment is moving swiftly - especially in Japan.

Last week, Nikkei Asian Review published two articles outlining plans by major engineering and power firms to build utility-scale demonstrations using ammonia as a fuel for electricity generation. Both projects aim to reduce the carbon intensity of the Japanese electrical grid, incrementally but significantly, by displacing a portion of the fossil fuels with ammonia. The first project will generate power using an ammonia-coal mix, while the second will combine ammonia with natural gas.

Read more

Ammonia for energy storage: economic and technical analysis

Developers around the world are looking at using ammonia as a form of energy storage, essentially turning an ammonia storage tank into a very large chemical battery.

In the UK, Siemens is building an "all electric ammonia synthesis and energy storage system." In the Netherlands, Nuon is studying the feasibility of using Power-to-Ammonia "to convert high amounts of excess renewable power into ammonia, store it and burn it when renewable power supply is insufficient."

While results from Siemens could be available in 2018, it might be 2021 before we see results from Nuon, whose "demonstration facility is planned to be completed in five years." But, while we wait for these real-world industrial data, the academic literature has just been updated with a significant new study on the design and performance of a grid-scale ammonia energy storage system.

Read more

Pipeline of new ammonia plants (2017 update, part 1)

I've published recent updates on four greenfield nitrogen plants that hope to break ground in 2017, potentially adding 1.8 million tons of ammonia capacity in the US.

The project pipeline is long, however, and others are making progress too. This article provides updates on another four projects that, together, could add more than 4 million tons to North American ammonia capacity through 2022.

Read more

International R&D on sustainable ammonia synthesis technologies

Over the last few weeks, I've written extensively about sustainable ammonia synthesis projects funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE). While these projects are important, the US has no monopoly on technology development. Indeed, given the current uncertainty regarding energy policy under the Trump administration, the US may be at risk of stepping away from its assumed role as an industry leader in this area.

This article introduces seven international projects, representing research coming out of eight countries spread across four continents. These projects span the breadth of next-generation ammonia synthesis research, from nanotechnology and electrocatalysis to plasmas and ionic liquids.

Read more

Comparative studies of ammonia production, combining renewable hydrogen with Haber-Bosch

In recent months, research teams from both Canada and Italy have published comparative analyses of sustainable ammonia production pathways.

These projects aim to quantify the costs and benefits of combining Haber-Bosch with a renewable hydrogen feedstock. Both projects examine the carbon intensity of ammonia production but, while the Canadian study broadens its remit to a full life cycle analysis, including global warming potential, human toxicity, and abiotic depletion, the Italian study focuses primarily on energy efficiency.

Read more

Midwest Fertilizer update: EPC, air permits, sukuk, and bonds

Midwest Fertilizer Company continues to juggle progress and setbacks on its $3 billion greenfield nitrogen plant in Indiana, following the December 2016 termination of its EPC contract with ThyssenKrupp. In the last few weeks, we've seen updates on the EPC contract, air permits, debt financing in Pakistan, and the $1.259 billion tax-exempt bond issue in the US.

Read more

US Nitrogen finally at full capacity

Five years after breaking ground, and almost three years behind schedule, US Nitrogen's ammonium nitrate plant in Tennessee has finally reached "full production capacity."

This project has been so fraught with problems - permitting, compliance, engineering design, construction, community acceptance, health and safety - that it wasn't always obvious whether the plant would ever be fully operational. Even now, a raft of legal challenges remain unresolved.

Read more

US DOE funding research into sustainable ammonia synthesis

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is currently supporting six fundamental research projects that will develop "novel catalysts and mechanisms for nitrogen activation," which it hopes will lead to future sustainable ammonia synthesis technologies.

These projects, announced in August 2016 and administered by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences, aim "to investigate some of the outstanding scientific questions in the synthesis of ammonia (NH3) from nitrogen (N2) using processes that do not generate greenhouse gases."

Read more

Australian solar-ammonia exports to Germany

I recently wrote about a vast future market for merchant ammonia: transporting carbon-free energy from Australia's deserts to Japan's electricity grid.

Now, however, it is clear that Japan could face international competition for Australia's solar-ammonia resources. Jeff Connolly, CEO of Siemens Pacific, wrote last month about his ambitions for ammonia as an energy export commodity.

Read more

ARPA-E funding for renewable ammonia synthesis technologies

Last week, ARPA-E announced funding for eight technologies that aim to make ammonia from renewable electricity, air, and water.

The technological pathways being developed include adaptations of the Haber-Bosch process - seeking improvements in catalysts and absorbents - as well as novel electrochemical processes.

Each of these awards must produce an "end-of-project deliverable." For chemical processes, this will be a "bench scale reactor" that produces >1 kg of ammonia per day; and for electrochemical projects, it will be a "short stack prototype" capable of producing >100 g of ammonia per day.

Read more

Breakthrough Energy Coalition targets carbon-free ammonia

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.

Read more

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."

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more