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.”

According to ISPT’s announcement:

Parties in the energy sector, together with chemical industries, are looking for innovative ways to produce CO2-free ammonia and use this ammonia to balance supply and demand without having to revert to fossil-fuel-based generation of electricity. The study shows that the electrochemical production of ammonia from renewable energy is a likely option and also offers a very promising solution for large-scale seasonal storage and import of renewable energy.
ISPT press release, Power to Ammonia: From renewable energy to CO2-free ammonia as chemical feedstock and fuel, March 2017

Click to enlarge. ISPT, Power to Ammonia, March 2017
The Power to Ammonia concept uses an electrolyzer to turn renewable energy (solar, wind, or tidal) into hydrogen, which is then turned into ammonia. The ammonia can be stored or transported as necessary (more easily and cheaply than hydrogen could be stored or transported), and then used either as a carbon-free feedstock for chemicals, making fertilizers or other industrial products, or as a fuel in a power plant.

The end-use flexibility of ammonia is what makes this feasibility study so valuable: Power to Ammonia examines a series of different business cases, in great detail, to verify optimal commercial applications and identify the future technology and policy developments necessary for these applications to become viable.

It achieves this with the full participation of the relevant industries. According to Hans Wiltink of ISPT, which co-ordinated the project:

“Innovations like this cannot be brought about by just one or two players. Agreements need to made on the technology, the business case, financing, and the way in which parties collaborate … The great thing about this project is that it brings together all relevant parties in the value chain.”
ISPT press release, Power to Ammonia: From renewable energy to CO2-free ammonia as chemical feedstock and fuel, March 2017

Click to enlarge. ISPT, Power to Ammonia, March 2017
The full list of ISPT’s academic and industrial partners includes Stedin Infrastructure Services, Nuon, ECN, Delft University of Technology, University of Twente, Proton Ventures, OCI Nitrogen, CE Delft, and Akzo Nobel.

The business cases include the Nuon project, about which I’ve written before, which proposes to use ammonia at a utility-scale power plant to create a “sustainable super battery,” as well as projects aiming to help balance the grid, allowing increased integration of renewables, and to reduce the carbon footprint of fertilizers and chemicals.

The full Power to Ammonia feasibility study is at the ISPT’s website.

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