Is Renewable Ammonia the Future of Fuels?

Credits: Monash Ammonia Project/YouTube

Ammonia could help with decarbonisation in multiple ways, reports the Bulletin.

Fuel of the future

Half a decade or so ago, it seemed that the time had arrived for the hydrogen economy. But when the engineers of the world began to consider the details of using vast supplies of renewables to generate hydrogen in quantities that have never been produced previously and moving it safely around the world, they saw a daunting prospect, for a variety of reasons. These included difficulties in using existing bulk carriers and pipelines for hydrogen transportation as well as the safety aspects of the need to store large amounts of hydrogen in transport hubs.

The research community then began to cast around for alternatives, compounds that could carry hydrogen but were safer and more straightforward to transport in enormous quantities over great distances. Ammonia rapidly emerged as a leading candidate.

The possibility of using ammonia—a compound of one nitrogen atom and three hydrogen atoms—as a hydrogen carrier was encouraged by the demonstration of technologies that could be used to split the ammonia molecule back into its constituents as needed at the point of use.

The advantage of ammonia over hydrogen involves its ease of handling and transportation in bulk. Systems for moving ammonia are well established. This is not the case with hydrogen, which poses corrosion challenges with respect to steel pipelines and other containers. Among energy-importing countries, Japan in particular has been clear about its preference for a hydrogen carrier such as ammonia as part of its energy mix, beginning before the end of this decade.

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Source: The Bulletin