Hydrogen - Fertilizer and Ammonia

As the world is facing shock from the results of Putin's War against Ukraine - urgent questions about energy and resources are uncovering a bigger, more complicated picture. Part of this big-picture equation includes also includes fertilizer production. Seventy-five percent of all agriculture around the world uses fertilizer. At present the world does not produce enough fertilizer to feed the growing Fertilizerpopulation by 2050. With the atrocities committed by Putin - it is not hard to fathom there is going to be even further disruption to food supplies.

OMAHA (DTN) -- A global fertilizer market that has already seen many challenges in the past 18 months will see added pressure from the Russia-Ukraine military conflict, according to The Fertilizer institute (TFI). However, the exact magnitude is unknown for now. TFI said in news release Wednesday it was concerned about the destabilizing situation occurring in the Ukraine. Its main concern is the safety of all the citizens in harm's way.

The actions of Russia will affect the global fertilizer market, as 90% of all fertilizer is consumed outside of the United States, according to TFI. Russia is the second-largest producer of ammonia, urea and potash and the fifth-largest producer of processed phosphates. The country accounts for 23% of the global ammonia export market, 14% of urea, 21% for potash and 10% of the processed phosphates. TFI also points out that the conflict will put stress and uncertainty on the energy market. Russia supplies about one-third of Europe's natural gas supply, the main feedstock to produce nitrogen fertilizers.

According to the Ammonia Energy Association in their 2019 Annual Review, "Green ammonia is no longer a lonely venture for Yara, which used to appear Feeding Life 2030alone among fertilizer producers in its desire to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from ammonia plants. While dozens of green ammonia demonstration projects and prototype technologies have been demonstrated in recent years, this progress was mostly achieved by energy companies and technology start-ups – and Yara. In the last year, however, fertilizer producers on five continents have begun feasibility studies, launched pilot demonstrations, or simply gone ahead and re-engineered their ammonia plants to replace fossil fuel inputs with renewable hydrogen.

Admittedly, much of the nitrogen fertilizer industry continues to be unaware that green ammonia is technically feasible. Many are simply uninterested in acting to reduce emissions, despite knowing that this action is urgently required on a global basis. But this inertia is starting to be replaced by ambition. The industry is being enlivened, perhaps, by its trade associations, which are beginning to see green ammonia as an opportunity, not a threat.

Fertilizers Europe leads the field so far. In its report Feeding Life 2030, it suggests that 10% of European ammonia could be produced from renewable hydrogen by 2030. This is one million tons of green ammonia, in Europe, ten years from today. This would be a giant leap for the industry and, simultaneously, not nearly enough.

Nonetheless, the feasibility of decarbonization is clear.

The electrolyzer technology from Nel was originally developed specifically for ammonia production, and some of the largest electrolyzer plants ever built, were built using the technology from Nel. Today, the ammonia/fertilizer industry consumes more than 30 million metric tons of hydrogen annually, making it the biggest consumer by far. However, all the hydrogen for ammonia is produced via fossil sources such as natural gas and coal. Nel has recently introduced a large scale electrolysis concept, which is cost competitive with reformers, and with the low electricity prices achieved with solar and wind can also make the TCO beneficial. As ammonia producers are seeking to reduce their carbon emissions and improve the predictability of the business case, Nel can offer the technology solutions to enable the change.

The hydrogen fueled farm of the future