Ammonia as an Essential Energy Carrier for the Energy Transition
Today, most of the 200 million tons of ammonia consumed each year is produced using natural gas. In a typical ammonia plant, a steam methane reformer is used to produce hydrogen from natural gas. This hydrogen is combined with atmospheric nitrogen via the Haber-Bosch process, which occurs at elevated temperatures and pressures.
The use of unabated fossil fuel feedstocks and energy inputs means that the process is highly carbon intensive. However, most new ammonia plants currently under development will employ one of two low carbon production pathways. Under the blue ammonia pathway, plants are equipped with carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems to capture the CO2 released during the conversion of natural gas to hydrogen.
Under the green ammonia pathway, renewable electricity is used to produce the hydrogen, resulting in nearly zero CO2 emissions. Energy inputs used for nitrogen capture and process heat can also be obtained from low emissions sources. Clean ammonia production technologies can be integrated into existing plants as well, providing a viable path to decarbonizing the existing ammonia production capacity.
Clean ammonia produced with CCS or renewable energy will help decarbonize existing applications in the fertilizer and chemical industries, as well as enable ammonia to replace carbon-intensive energy sources in other hard-to-abate sectors