14 Dec 2023, 13:24
Sören Amelang

Conversion into ammonia will be a “dominant transport technology” for hydrogen – report

Clean Energy Wire

Converting hydrogen to ammonia will be "the dominant transport technology" in order to ship the fuel to Germany, according to a report commissioned by the World Energy Council, which found that shipping hydrogen to Germany will be unfeasible for years to come due to the high costs and major technical hurdles. "If the rapid ramp-up of the hydrogen economy in Germany is to succeed, ammonia is part of the solution," the authors wrote. The report argues that conversion into ammonia allows compatibility with ports in north-western Europe that already have liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals which can take ammonia. Additionally, it requires comparatively little energy to convert and transport, the necessary logistics chains for transport and distribution are already tried and tested, and it has a relatively high energy density. On the downside, ammonia is very toxic compared to other hydrogen derivates. There is a "high risk of leaks, including their potentially serious consequences for people and the environment," the report says, which was compiled by consultancies EE Energy Engineers und TÜV NORD Ensys.

"Ammonia produced from renewable sources will play a key role in the international trade of green energy between continents," said Carsten Rolle, Managing Director of the World Energy Council Germany. The report estimated that the global market for renewable ammonia will grow by over 70 percent per year from 2023 to 2028, with the market volume rising from around 0.3 billion dollars today to almost 18 billion dollars in 2030. The report named three options for the use of ammonia: direct material utilisation, for example in the chemical industry; direct thermal utilisation, for example in ship engines, industrial processes or power plants; and re-conversion into hydrogen and nitrogen using cracking technology. “However, the cracking process is energy-intensive and needs to be scaled up before it can be operated economically,” the World Energy Council said.

Green hydrogen is set to play a crucial role in the decarbonisation of many hard-to-abate sectors, such as steelmaking and the chemical industry. But neither Germany nor Europe as a whole will be able to meet the entire projected demand with local production – transport from world regions with better potential for renewable electricity production, such as Australia, Africa or South America, is therefore key. The German government assumes that only 30 percent of the country’s future requirements for green hydrogen can be produced domestically. Green hydrogen is made in a process called electrolysis, where water is split into its constituent parts, oxygen and hydrogen, but it requires large amounts of renewable electricity. Today, the vast majority of ammonia is derived from climate-damaging natural gas.

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