The second annual Power to Ammonia conference, which took place earlier this month in Rotterdam, was a tremendous success. It was again hosted by Proton Ventures, the Dutch engineering firm and mini-ammonia-plant pioneer, and had roughly twice as many attendees as last year with the same extremely high quality of presentations (it is always an honor for me to speak alongside the technical wizards and economic innovators who represent the world of ammonia energy).
However, for me, the most exciting part of this year's event was the fact that, for the first time at an ammonia energy conference, all four of the major ammonia technology licensors were represented. With Casale, Haldor Topsoe, ThyssenKrupp, and KBR all developing designs for integration of their ammonia synthesis technologies with renewable powered electrolyzers, green ammonia is now clearly established as a commercial prospect.
SUMMARY STATUS: Financing Phase
Following years of quiet development, Greenfield Nitrogen launched its financing roadshow in March 2018 and, by mid-May, "has raised about $40 million." If the company succeeds in raising its $103 million equity round, this will be the first plant built with the Linde Ammonia Concept (LAC) technology for regional-scale ammonia production.
The list of investment drivers for building new ammonia plants in the US over the last few years was short, beginning and ending with cheap natural gas. Markets change, however, and the investment drivers for the next generation of new ammonia plants might include low cost electrolyzers, low cost renewable power, carbon taxes, and global demand for ammonia as a carbon-free energy vector.
For this to make sense, however, ammonia needs to be produced without fossil fuel inputs. This is perfectly possible using Haber-Bosch technology with electrolyzers, but today's wind and solar power plants exist on a smaller scale than could support a standard (very big) Haber-Bosch plant. So, to produce renewable ammonia, small-scale ammonia production is essential.
This time series chart shows the capital intensity of today’s ammonia plants. Together, the data illustrate competitive advantages of alternative investment strategies, and demonstrate a shift away from the prior trend toward (and received wisdom of) monolithic mega-plants that rely on a natural gas feedstock.
Hydrogen Energy California (HECA) has withdrawn its application for certification from the California Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission - essentially shelving the project indefinitely.
The proposed "clean coal" (actually, 75% coal and 25% pet coke) project was to have produced 300 MW net power, and 2,080 stpd ammonia using technology by Casale, most of which would have been upgraded to 1,700 stpd urea and 1,400 stpd UAN.
Full details are in my Research Note for HECA in Kern County, CA, but the project's main problems were:
SUMMARY STATUS: Financing Phase - in Bankruptcy Protection
Ribbon cutting ceremony in May 2014. Awaiting announcement of bond placement and date for start of construction. This site may yet be developed as BioNitrogen's proof-of-concept, however, BioNitrogen entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2015.
SUMMARY STATUS: Operational
Simplot began building its new ammonia plant, adjacent to its existing phosphate fertilizer plant, in October 2014. The project was initially scheduled to be complete in Q3 2016, but delays pushed this back. The new plant was mechanically complete in March 2017 and became fully operational in September 2017. Simplot's investment is "one of the largest in company history," and makes it self-sufficient for ammonia.