Ammonia cracking technology could face headwinds despite its advantages

Membrane bundle for ammonia cracking reactor

Source: H2 SITE

Existing ammonia transport systems and infrastructure may give it an advantage over hydrogen as a new fuel, and while ammonia cracking will likely play a key role, there are challenges to overcome with scaling up the technology.

Ammonia is currently probably the best and cheapest way of transporting renewable hydrogen at scale, says Scott Trevean, Team Lead Hydrogen and CCUS, ANZ, Energy Systems at DNV, and there’s a ready market for molecules in countries such as Singapore, Korea, and Japan as well as in Europe. LNG is a stopgap, but ultimately these countries will require a fully decarbonised solution such as ammonia which is already shipped around the world as a commodity.

Mr Trevean sees three major use cases for ammonia: the existing fertiliser applications, as an energy carrier for power generation and as a fuel for ships. While liquified hydrogen may eventually be more competitive, ammonia is a good solution for at least the next 15-20 years.

Ammonia can be created at temperatures of around 400oC at high pressures using the Haber-Bosch process, but to crack it back to hydrogen and nitrogen at these temperatures, current commercial applications are limited to small lab-scale devices for niche applications, using precious metal-based catalysts.

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