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The role of Ammonia in the North West Hydrogen Economy

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Charley Rattan's picture
World Hydrogen Leader Charley Rattan Associates

UK based offshore wind & hydrogen corporate advisor, broker and trainer; Faculty member World Hydrogen Leaders. Delivering global hydrogen and offshore wind corporate investment brokerage....

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  • May 23, 2022
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The role of Ammonia in the North West Hydrogen Economy 

Global production of ammonia currently stands at 176 million tonnes per year. Most ammonia is produced at large scale via the Haber Bosch process where nitrogen and hydrogen react at pressures of up to 200 bar. The carbon intensity of the ammonia is dependent on the source of hydrogen. Almost all ammonia today is produced using natural gas or LPG as a feedstock and reformed to produce hydrogen. In order to produce low carbon ammonia, a low carbon hydrogen source is required.

The cost of low carbon hydrogen and therefore low carbon ammonia is largely driven by the economics and scale of production, with the input cost of renewable electricity for electrolytic “green” production or natural gas for CCUS-enabled “blue” production being the most significant factors.

These costs are likely to be largely geographically driven. The low cost of solar energy in the Middle East and Australia means that hydrogen imported from these areas could be competitive with domestic production and could support the UK as it looks to meet domestic hydrogen demand. Figure 2 shows an evaluation of the cost of hydrogen production from natural gas in different geographies.

The CAPEX and OPEX of the reformation and capture process is the same for all locations, however the cost of gas has a large impact on the cost of hydrogen and varies by geography. The fragility of gas prices has been well documented in recent months, with the rapid rise in prices globally.

 

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Jack Cadogan on May 24, 2022

Interesting article. Idaho National Lab (INL) is leading a related DOE funded research project in the US on the technical and economic viability of nuclear plants making very pure clean hydrogen by electric-only low temperature electrolysis (LTE) and high temperature electrolysis (HTE) via electric with clean steam preheating. The Hydrogen Regulatory Research Review Group (H3RG) made up of nuclear industry regulatory and technical experts is helping shape architect engineering proof of concept designs.  INL is building supporting techno-economic assessments.

 The ammonia carrier option is being considered for all the reasons stated in the above article.

 Growing excess of clean nuclear electric (and thermal) energy due to solar time-off-day peak generation presents a unique opportunity to contribute to the hydrogen economy.

 From a regional coast perspective it would be interesting to conceptualize the economic trade-off’s of a UK located existing nuclear plant producing locally sited electrolysis and ammonia equipment vs Middle East solar generated hydrogen, ammonia conversion, and transport as a possible financially viable alternative.

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