Green ammonia and its contribution to the energy transition
Green hydrogen has been praised as the holy grail for a sustainable industry. But: There is another molecule that might get even more important than H2 in the short- and mid-term to make the energy transition happen. We are talking about NH3, or ammonia, the hidden star for generating CO2-free energy.
Today, roughly 80% of the annual global production of 170 million metric tons of ammonia is used as a fertilizer base chemical. Only 20% are utilized for other technical solutions. However, the demand for ammonia is shifting drastically towards new markets in the coming years: power generation and transportation, as ammonia is the most cost-efficient liquid energy carrier for long-term storage, easy to ship globally, and a feasible maritime fuel.
We talked to our experts from thyssenkrupp Uhde to learn more about green ammonia and its promising role in the global energy transition.
State-of-the-art technology meets 100 years of history
The construction of ammonia plants and the continuous development of new technologies in this field are firmly embedded in thyssenkrupp Uhde’s corporate DNA. Today, the company can build plants with capacities of up to 5,000 metric tons per day (mtpd) – and in combination with water electrolysis, these plants can even produce CO2-free “green ammonia”.
“While in the past most ammonia plants were using natural gas as feedstock, today all odds are in favor for green ammonia,” explains Thore Lohmann, Executive Director of the ammonia and methanol business at thyssenkrupp Uhde. “The increased installation of renewable energy applications, reduced power cost, implementation of CO2-taxes and potential subsidies for green ammonia technology change today’s market drivers drastically towards green ammonia applications.”
To meet these future requirements and different markets, thyssenkrupp has already developed fully standardized and modularized green ammonia plant concepts. “We are currently working on modularization and standardization concepts for even larger green ammonia plants,” says Thore Lohmann. “But already today, we are the only technology provider in the market who offers green ammonia plants out of one hand and on turnkey basis with a portfolio covering 50 to 5000 tons per day. Besides, we are investing our R&D efforts into ammonia cracking technology as this will define the success of green ammonia in the global clean energy market ahead.”
Achieving green energy with green ammonia
One of the most promising applications of green ammonia is its utilization as a sustainable energy carrier, explain the experts. “Ammonia can be produced from the available elements hydrogen and nitrogen from the air and, if required, broken down again into its components with the aid of a so-called cracker. This means that ammonia can be shipped from for example Australia to Japan and there either be used directly for power generation or be cracked into hydrogen again for industrial applications.
Ammonia can also be burned directly, e.g. in gas turbines orship engines. Due to its flexible usage, ammonia is an ideal green energy molecule. In comparison to hydrogen, ammonia has a higher energy density, which makes it easy to transport and uncomplicated to store,“ explains Thore Lohmann. This makes green ammonia an ideal liquid energy carrier for transporting "green hydrogen" from renewable energies over long distances. Furthermore, ammonia is already a globally traded product with existing shipping infrastructure and thus, offers enormous potential for a global green energy economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Find out how ammonia technology has developed over the last 100 years and which applications could benefit from this green energy source in the future, at thyssenkrupp Uhde.