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Brian Westenhaus

Brian Westenhaus

Brian is the editor of the popular energy technology site New Energy and Fuel. The site’s mission is to inform, stimulate, amuse and abuse the…

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Green Ammonia Breakthrough to Transform Fuel and Fertilizer Industries

  • The new technology significantly reduces the carbon footprint of ammonia production, traditionally a high-energy and CO2-intensive process.
  • The process, which has been licensed to PlasmaLeap Technologies, is ready for deployment in the Australian agriculture industry and represents a breakthrough in decentralized, sustainable ammonia production.
  • This innovation not only addresses supply chain issues in fertilizer production but also offers a viable solution for hydrogen energy storage and transportation, positioning Australia as a leader in renewable energy initiatives.

Researchers at University of New South Wales Sydney and their collaborators have developed an innovative technique for sustainable ammonia production at scale. With a prototype unit nearing production of ammonia for fertilizers, in a market that has one of the largest carbon footprints among industrial processes, will soon be possible on farms using low-cost, low-energy and environmentally friendly technology. Ammonia also has immense potential as an optimal hydrogen carrier for fuel cells.

Up until now, the production of ammonia has relied on high-energy processes that leave a massive global carbon footprint with production temperatures of more than 400o C and pressures exceeding 200 atmospheres that account for 2 percent of the world’s energy and 1.8 percent of its CO2.

In a paper published in the journal Applied Catalysis B: Environmental, (without a paywall at this posting) the authors show that the process they developed has enabled the large-scale synthesis of green ammonia by increasing its energy efficiency and production rate making environmentally friendly ammonia economically feasible.

The foundation of this research, previously published three years ago by the same research group, has already been licensed to an Australian industry partner, PlasmaLeap Technologies, through the UNSW Knowledge Exchange program. It is set to be translated into the Australian agriculture industry, with their prototype already scaled up and ready for deployment.

The research also represents an opportunity to use green ammonia in the hydrogen transport market, as liquid ammonia (NH3) can store more hydrogen in a smaller space than liquefied hydrogen (H2), making the transportation of hydrogen energy more economical.

Dr. Ali Jalili, the study’s leader and a former Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow at UNSW noted, “Ammonia-based fertilizers are in critically short supply due to international supply chain disruptions and geopolitical issues, which impact our food security and production costs. This, together with its potential for hydrogen energy storage and transportation, makes ammonia key to Australia’s renewable energy initiatives, positioning the country among the leaders in renewable energy exports and utilization.”

As well as addressing economic and logistical challenges associated with intermittent energy sources for cities or farms, Dr Jalili says to fully unlock its potential, it is “essential to establish a decentralized and energy-efficient production method that can effectively use surplus renewable electricity.”

***

This could be quite the breakthrough. While ammonia is quite unpleasant and a very ph in nature it might be the best hydrogen carrier/storage medium. The study paper is for now at least not behind a paywall and is not written in a highly technical way. For those with a serious interest its a read well worth the time. There is a much more complete description of the technology and how it works.

This technology has legs. There is a likely prospect that further development might get the process into the fertilizer business. Ammonia in its pure state is gaseous and could replace gasoline is a portable fuel source.

The wikipedia page for ammonia is quite complete now. It is also well worth the time.

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By Brian Westenhaus via New Energy and Fuel

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