A Bright Future for Green Ammonia

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Lab technician mixing chemicals for article on potential of green ammonia

The world depends heavily on ammonia for its food production, but most of the world’s
ammonia operations are still carbon-intensive. As food demand continues to increase,
countries worldwide will have to shift to using green ammonia in fertilizers if they hope to
decarbonize their energy and industrial sectors in support of a green transition.

With the expansion of green hydrogen production, it is only a matter of time before green ammonia production becomes more commonplace, with some projects already taking off in several states across the U.S.

Why Ammonia?

Ammonia is used for around half of the world’s food production, with ammonia-based
fertilizers helping to increase crop yields in countries across the globe. Around 80% of
ammonia worldwide is used in fertilizer production, and the rest is used for industrial
applications, such as plastics, explosives, and synthetic fibers. Fertilizer helps plants to
absorb the nitrogen needed for growth to help crops flourish and meet the growing global
food demand.

The global production of ammonia accounts for approximately 2% of the world’s energy
consumption and 1.3% of its carbon emissions. This figure is expected to expand as the
world’s food demand – and therefore fertilizer demand – increases. However, there may be a more environmentally-friendly alternative – green ammonia. Traditionally, ammonia is produced via natural gas steam reforming (around 70% of ammonia worldwide), coal
gasification, or oil and electricity. But recently, there has been a shift to green ammonia
production, which is created using hydrogen from water electrolysis and nitrogen separated from the air. The Haber process is applied, using green electricity, to produce ammonia.

Green Hydrogen for Ammonia Production

The green hydrogen market is rapidly being developed in various regions around the globe. It was valued at $4.02 billion in 2022 and is expected to achieve a CAGR of 54.98% over the next decade, to reach $331.98 billion by 2032. Although, much of the new green hydrogen production is being used to develop clean fuels for transport and industrial uses. But there is also a significant opportunity to use this green hydrogen to produce ammonia needed for fertilizer.

According to a study from November 2022, the green ammonia market size is expected to achieve $73.05 billion by 2030, with a CAGR of 127.9% over the next decade. Demand for green ammonia is expected to increase in line with rising consumer demand for more
sustainable food products, as well as with the green transition being pushed by several
governments worldwide.

U.S. Ammonia Development

In the U.S., several clean ammonia projects are currently underway. In April this year, in
West Virginia, Senator Joe Manchin announced plans for the Adams Fork Energy multi-billion-dollar clean ammonia project. The plant will be developed on a disused coal mining
site in Mingo County. The facility will continue to rely on gas feedstock to produce the
ammonia, but carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology will be incorporated into the
project to make production cleaner. Once operational, the plant is expected to produce
around 2.16 million tons of ammonia per year, with the potential for further expansion in
the future.

Construction of the plant is expected to commence in 2024. The Flandreau Santee Sioux
Tribe will be consulted during the building process to ensure community approval. The
project will be supported by the Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub (ARCH2), which is one of twenty-two applications under consideration by the U.S. Department of Energy for funding as part of the $7 billion Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs program.

In Texas, the U.S. engineering firm KBR has been chosen by green hydrogen producer Avina Clean Hydrogen to provide its K-GreeN® technology for Avina’s green ammonia project. The contract states that KBR will provide the technology license and engineering design for the project to produce 2,200 metric tons of green ammonia a day. The production process will be powered with 100% renewable energy, with the first of the two phases of the project expected to be up and running by 2025.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, a consortium of eight major maritime stakeholders has drawn up a memorandum of understanding to explore the potential of developing a supply chain for
green ammonia bunkering at the Port of Savannah, Georgia. The consortium includes ABS, AP Moller–Maersk, Fleet Management Ltd, Georgia Ports Authority (GPA), Maersk Mc- Kinney Moller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping, Savage Services, Sumitomo Corp, and TOTE Services.

Ammonia is considered one of the most promising alternative marine fuels as it does not emit greenhouse gases when combusted, meaning that if it can be produced in a clean way, it could allow for green shipping operations.

What’s Next?

There is significant potential for green ammonia, which could be used for a variety of
applications, from fertilizer to industrial operations and clean shipping fuels. However, the
global drive to develop green ammonia projects is only just being seen. The development of the green ammonia industry relies heavily on green hydrogen production that can be used in ammonia operations.

As governments and private companies worldwide invest in green hydrogen, some of this investment must be aimed at developing the green ammonia market to support the growing demand for sustainable agriculture processes as the global food demand continues to rise.

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