Green ammonia revolutionizes the transport of hydrogen
Green hydrogen is a promising and sustainable energy carrier. However, its transport is anything but energy efficient. Our colleagues from thyssenkrupp Uhde explain why transporting hydrogen by ship is not sustainable and why green ammonia is a good solution.
Green hydrogen is the hope for a greener future and can make numerous industries more sustainable. But there is still a long way to go before the hydrogen economy is established. It is because Europe or even countries like Germany, Japan, and Korea will not be able to meet their own hydrogen needs in the near future. They will have to rely on imports of hydrogen.
"The cheapest green hydrogen is produced in regions with a large availability of inexpensive renewable energies," explains Dr. Ralph Kleinschmidt, Head of Technology and Innovation at thyssenkrupp Uhde. "These are predominantly countries in the southern hemisphere, such as Australia and Chile, or from the Middle East and North Africa." For hydrogen imports, large quantities of green hydrogen are transported over long distances to Europe and Asia.
To transport hydrogen over long distances by ship, a lot of energy is needed. Due to the need of cooling down the gas to very low temperatures and liquefying it for transport. It is a costly and, above all, an energy-intensive process for which there is currently no established infrastructure. To fully exploit the climate-friendly effect of green hydrogen, an efficient and sustainable alternative is needed.
What contribution green ammonia makes to establishing the hydrogen economy
This is where green ammonia comes into play. Ammonia can serve as a hydrogen and energy carrier and is already traded in high volumes worldwide. Currently, about 20 million tons of ammonia are transported by sea each year.
The advantage of green ammonia? It requires less energy to liquefy and transport, explains Dr. Christian Renk, Head of Technology, Innovation & Sustainability Fertilizer & Methanol at thyssenkrupp Uhde. "Ammonia has a higher volumetric energy density than liquid hydrogen, and so more energy can be transported via ammonia for the same volume than in the form of liquid hydrogen." Add to that the experience for safe transportation and the existing established global infrastructure for ammonia. After the green ammonia is shipped, it can be split back into green hydrogen and nitrogen in the destination countries or used directly.
The role of green ammonia in the transportation of hydrogen
Green ammonia is thus an ideal hydrogen and energy carrier. It is easy, safe and cheap to transport. And it is already the second most traded chemical in the world. Ports, ships and tank farms - the infrastructure is in place. The acrid-smelling gas also has another advantage Dr. Christian Renk explains, "Green ammonia burns climate-neutrally to form nitrogen and water, so it can also serve as an additional fuel in gas-fired power plants, or as fuel for ships." So in the future, green ammonia can be used as an energy carrier for transporting green hydrogen and powering the ships needed for this purpose without causing CO2 emissions.
Plant technology from thyssenkrupp along the entire hydrogen value chain
thyssenkrupp Uhde and thyssenkrupp nucera combine over 100 years of experience in constructing ammonia and electrolysis plants. This makes thyssenkrupp the only group in the world able to offer the entire hydrogen value chain from water electrolysis through ammonia production and storage to ammonia cracking - the conversion of ammonia back to hydrogen. It is a future market that will become increasingly important in the coming years and is already attracting the interest of many customers.
"There is a lot of interest among today's ammonia producers to reduce CO2 emissions. These are now mainly located where natural gas is cheap, for example, in the USA, the Middle East, or North Africa,” explains Dr. Ralph Kleinschmidt, Head of Technology and Innovation at thyssenkrupp Uhde. "New additions include customers from regions where renewable energies are available at low cost, as well as customers for the hydrogen generated from green ammonia, such as utilities in Europe, Japan and Korea."
Outlook: Green ammonia - a key technology
Green ammonia is thus increasingly taking on a key role in establishing green hydrogen as an energy carrier and a sustainable hydrogen economy. With the expertise of the thyssenkrupp Uhde and thyssenkrupp nucera colleagues, the thyssenkrupp group of companies is making a significant contribution to the energy transition.
Read more about water electrolysis, green ammonia and other sustainable technologies in our sustainability stories. If you want to get involved and help make tomorrow's industry more sustainable as an expert, you can find all the current job openings on our careers page.