How feasible is the proposition to use green hydrogen and ammonia as zero-carbon fuels?
Green hydrogen is critical to the success of the zero-carbon policies adopted by several countries across the Middle East and North Africa (Mena). But while the mass energy density of hydrogen is the highest of all known substances, its volume energy density is the lowest; this makes it difficult to transport green hydrogen over long distances.
In contrast, ammonia has a higher volumetric energy density than hydrogen and can therefore be transported more efficiently than hydrogen can. Ammonia can also be used directly as a fuel for ships or power plants, and it can be reconverted into hydrogen. Hence, ammonia can be said to be the most efficient hydrogen carrier currently.
The storage and transportation infrastructure for ammonia is also more efficient and advanced when compared with those for hydrogen. Another point in favour of ammonia is that its production process uses renewable substances – the nitrogen used is taken from air and the hydrogen from water. In other words, it is a zero-carbon method.
Green ammonia is a real zero-carbon material, which will work in its favour in the emissions-free world that governments are currently working towards. Ammonia has a wide range of applications in the market, with major consumers including the fertiliser and chemicals industries.
There are different types of ammonia; grey ammonia is produced using fossil fuels, blue ammonia is produced using fossil fuels but with a carbon capture system (CCS), and green ammonia is produced using hydrogen derived from water electrolysis and nitrogen separated from the air. Unlike green ammonia, the costs of blue and grey ammonia rely heavily on the prices of fossil fuels, which are unpredictable.
As carbon neutralisation advances, the price of fossil fuels will keep increasing. In addition, the cost of carbon capture systems is also unpredictable. In contrast, the cost structure of green hydrogen and ammonia is fixed, and is linked to the capital expenditure of wind farms, energy storage systems, microgrids and electrolysis plants. With the implementation of carbon taxes, cost reductions in plants and efficiency improvements in electrolysers, we believe the cost of green ammonia will become more competitive than those of blue and grey ammonia.
Water electrolysis plants are efficient at absorbing the variable loads of upstream renewable power. With the number of renewable power plants being installed and connected with the grid on the increase, green ammonia facilities can potentially play an important role as large-scale energy storage systems that link renewable power plants and grids. They can absorb the variable power loads and convert them into ammonia, which can be stored and transported easily and to various destinations. With the development of ammonia co-firing, internal combustion and turbine technology, green ammonia will play a critical role in the power industry as well as long-duration energy storage systems.
The region has an abundance of wind and solar power resources, and lower renewable energy costs form a solid base for developing green hydrogen and ammonia
Frank Yu, Envision Group
What are the key opportunities offered by green hydrogen and ammonia in the Mena region?
From a geographic point of view, the Mena region is the best location when it comes to green hydrogen and ammonia production due to its proximity to Europe and South and East Asia. The region also has an abundance of wind and solar power resources, and lower costs for renewable energy can form a solid base for the development of green hydrogen and ammonia. Green hydrogen can help the Mena region become the new energy centre of the world, and is strategically important to the global shift from traditional fossil fuels to renewable energy.
Envision views the Mena region as a strategic market due to its potential for the development of large-scale wind power plants and green hydrogen facilities.
How is Envision positioned to develop green hydrogen and renewables in general in the Mena region?
Envision is a global green technology company with technology for smart wind turbines that can provide the lowest unit cost of power. Our large-scale water electrolysis plants, air separation units with energy storage function, and ammonia synthesis with variable load function ensure safe, reliable and efficient operations. Our EnOSTM intelligent operating system, which runs on a cloud-based artificial intelligence of things (AIoT) platform can help clients ensure wind and solar resources are utilised in the most efficient manner.
Unlike traditional hydrogen plants, which use power from the grid or fossil fuels as feedstock, the variable loads of wind and solar power pose significant challenges to the design and operation of green hydrogen and ammonia plants. These plants must be capable of adjusting quickly enough to match the fluctuations in wind and solar power. Here, Envision can use its EnOSTM system, which has a weather forecast function and an advanced control system, to enable these facilities to handle variable loads.
Envision also offers an ammonia synthesis process package, which can include dynamic and variable load functions. In such circumstances, the energy battery and hydrogen buffer system can be minimised to keep total capital and operating expenditure as low as possible.
For large-scale green hydrogen facilities, Envision can optimise the design of the water electrolysis and hydrogen purification systems, thus helping to achieve lower costs and ensure safety, reliability and efficiency.
The cost of green hydrogen is critical for an asset owner, as are the costs of renewable power and hydrogen plants. Envision can help our customers to achieve competitive pricing when compared to grey or blue ammonia.
What is the role of green hydrogen in Envision’s strategy?
Envision views green hydrogen as the new oil. Green hydrogen and ammonia will play a very important role in industries such as steel, chemicals, biochemicals, materials, and transportation. There are also many emerging applications related to green hydrogen and ammonia; take for example the Power-to-X application, which allows electricity from the grid to be converted via electrolysis into hydrogen. Envision is developing various technologies related to green hydrogen that will help governments and clients achieve their carbon neutralisation goals.
Published in partnership with Envision Group
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