With a global consumption already reaching 200 million tonnes per year, ammonia is widely used to make agricultural fertilizers and shipping fuel. Green ammonia could offer further options in the transition to net-zero carbon dioxide emissions, specially as a valid hydrogen energy carrier.
Ammonia plays a key role in ensuring universal food security and nutrition requirement for crops, and is a critical chemical feedstock in a number of industrial applications. As the global demand for ammonia increases with population growth, decarbonizing ammonia becomes critical to reduce emissions in the chemicals sector.
A new report by Mission Possible Partnership estimates that ammonia is one of one of the highest-volume chemicals produced globally, accounting for around 1% of global emissions and around 40% of global chemical Scope 1 emissions.
Is ammonia the fuel of the future?
Green ammonia is a renewable fuel made from sun, air, and water that could power the globe without carbon. Ammonia has a higher volumetric energy density than hydrogen and it is easier to ship and distribute. H2 requires a massive volume to store small amounts and it is a light gas that needs to be stored both under pressure and in cryogenic conditions, accruing cost and safety concerns.
Ammonia has added values of globally mature transport and storage networks. It can be readily decomposed for clean hydrogen production and is a more efficient way to transport H2, as it is significantly easier to liquefy for storage and transportation. On the other hand, ammonia offers several handling and cost-effective advantages: it is non-gaseous and non-explosive.
Green ammonia takeaways
- Ammonia demand will grow by 2050, largely due to maritime fuel requirements
- The maritime sector alone could scale-up of ammonia production
- “Green” ammonia will likely dominate over time, making up 70-90% of global ammonia production by 2050
- The ammonia sector will be responsible for 3-8% of global renewable electricity demand by 2050, and 9-28% of global green hydrogen demand
- Investments will need to be in the order of $59 – $105 billion each year to 2050. This is compared to business-as-usual investments of around $18 billion for the sector currently
- Fertiliser use is likely to increase 30% by 2050, but improvements in farming practices and reducing food waste could moderate this increase
Demand for green ammonia is also expected to grow in a decarbonized world as an energy carrier, with use cases emerging in shipping, power generation, and as a hydrogen carrier. It becomes critical therefore, that as the demand for green ammonia grows, the process to manufacture ammonia moves away from relying heavily on fossil fuel and towards cleaner energy sources.
What are the priorities?
- Government action (certification & market-based mechanisms)
- Urgent scaling of renewable energy generation (enough to meet the demand for 70-210 GW of installed electrolyzers)
- Commitments from maritime players (multi-year offtakes and green corridor collaborations)
- Capital mobilization for investment in near-zero emissions ammonia production ($25 billion–$52 billion annually)
Our work with green ammonia
UH2 works with green ammonia as an alternative to fossil fuels, providing the same functionality on a large scale. These green power alternatives are fundamental for a sustainable and complete clean energy transition. UH2 has been working on alternative and innovative energy carriers and storage solutions for a number of years.
Discover more here.