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First commercial deployment of ‘game-changing’ hydrogen technology

17/1/2024

Port Arthur, Texas, at night Photo: Pixabay
A new facility located in Port Arthur, Texas, US, is to produce some 880,000 t/y of ammonia, an alternative fuel that could play a key role in decarbonising the global shipping sector

Photo: Pixabay

Ultra-low-carbon hydrogen to ammonia production technology is to be deployed for the first time at a new ammonia production facility in Port Arthur, Texas, US. The process aims to accelerate the decarbonisation of transportation, industrial processes and agriculture across the Gulf Coast region. Meanwhile, two new studies highlight the important role that ammonia is set to play in decarbonising the global shipping sector.

While most conventional low-carbon hydrogen production methods are often reported to be inefficient or expensive, 8 Rivers claims that its new proprietary 8RH2 hydrogen technology is ‘game-changing’ as it uses an ‘innovative oxy combustion process that generates ultra-low carbon hydrogen at a higher efficiency and lower cost, while capturing >99% of CO2, exceeding global capture rates’.  

 

The Cormorant Clean Energy Project will produce an estimated 880,000 t/y of ammonia and capture more than 1.4mn t/y of CO2. The site is also expected to bring in over $1bn in investment to the region and create more than 1,000 new construction jobs from 2024 to 2027.

 

Steve Milward, Chief Operating Officer at 8 Rivers comments: ‘Clean fuels like hydrogen and ammonia are paramount to the energy transition, and the Gulf Coast region’s rich history of industrial manufacturing and transportation makes it the perfect environment to demonstrate the game-changing potential of this [8RH2] technology.’

 

Ammonia to help decarbonise global shipping  

Meanwhile, a study published in the journal Environmental Research: Infrastructure and Sustainability has found that green ammonia could be used to fulfil the fuel demands of over 60% of global shipping by targeting the top 10 regional fuel ports. Researchers at the University of Oxford looked at the production costs of ammonia, which are similar to very low sulphur fuels, and concluded that the fuel could be a viable option to help decarbonise international shipping by 2050.  

 

Around $2tn will be needed to transition to a green ammonia fuel supply chain by 2050, primarily to finance supply infrastructure, suggests the study. It says the greatest investment need is in Australia, to supply the Asian markets, with large production clusters also predicted in Chile (to supply South America), California (to supply the western US), North-West Africa (to meet European demand), and the southern Arabian Peninsula (to meet local demand and parts of south Asia).

 

Some 90% of world’s physical goods trade is transported by ships which burn heavy fuel oil and emit toxic pollutants. This accounts for nearly 3% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As a result of this, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) committed to decarbonising international shipping in 2018, aiming to halve GHG emissions by 2050. These targets have been recently revised to net zero emissions by 2050.  

 

After investigating the viability of diesel vessel exhaust scrubbers, green ammonia. made by electrolysing water with renewable electricity, was proposed as an alternative fuel source to quickly decarbonise the shipping industry. However, historically there has been great uncertainty as to how and where to invest to create the necessary infrastructure to deliver an efficient, viable fuel supply chain.  

 

René Bañares-Alcántara, Professor of Chemical Engineering in the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford, says: ‘Shipping is one of the most challenging sectors to decarbonise because of the need for fuel with high energy density and the difficulty of coordinating different groups to produce, utilise and finance alternative (green) fuel supplies.’  

 

To guide investors, the team at the University of Oxford developed a modelling framework to create viable scenarios for how to establish a global green ammonia fuel supply chain. The framework combines a fuel demand model, future trade scenarios and a spatial optimisation model for green ammonia production, storage, and transport, to find the best locations to meet future demand for shipping fuel.  

 

Professor Bañares-Alcántara continues: ‘Under the proposed model, current dependence upon oil-producing nations would be replaced by a more regionalised industry; green ammonia will be produced near the Equator in countries with abundant land and high solar potential then transported to regional centres of shipping fuel demand.’

 

In related news, the latest statistics from DNV’s Alternative Fuels Insight (AFI) platform suggest that maritime decarbonisation efforts have intensified as orders for alternative-fuelled vessels grow. The analysis found that a total of 298 ships with alternative fuel propulsion were ordered in 2023 – an 8% increase year-on-year. The year also saw methanol go mainstream, with a sharp increase in orders (138), putting it neck and neck with LNG (130). Additionally, 2023 marked a breakout year for ammonia, with 11 orders for vessels run on this fuel, and more in the pipeline.

 

Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO Maritime at DNV, comments: ‘As we navigate towards a greener maritime future, the growing demand for alternative-fuelled vessels speaks volumes. These orders send pivotal signals to fuel providers and other important partners on shipping’s decarbonisation journey. While it is clear that the maritime fuel technology transition is already underway, we now need to ensure the fuels powering these engines become available.’

 

He concludes: ‘It is, however, crucial to emphasise that focusing solely on fuels may divert our focus from achieving a significant impact in this decade. What is required are concrete measures that actively lower emissions. Energy efficiency initiatives can yield decarbonisation outcomes both now and leading up to 2030.’