The photo is sourced from Energy Connects
Ammonia is a colourless gas with a pungent smell used to produce mineral fertilisers. A molecule of ammonia consists of a nitrogen atom and three hydrogen atoms. These substances will be extracted through catalytic cracking – a high-temperature process used during oil re-refining to produce fractions of gasoline, methane, hydrogen and liquefied hydrocarbon gases from vacuum gas oil (a product of preliminary refining). Using this method, Air Liquide specialists will transform liquid ammonia into a cracking gas consisting mostly of nitrogen and hydrogen in order to then separate the gaseous mixture into its individual components.
The innovation will make it possible to use the benefits of hydrogen and ammonia as clean fuels. Ammonia liquefies at a higher temperature (minus 33 degrees Celsius) than hydrogen (minus 253 degrees Celsius), and it is also less explosive. Moreover, the support infrastructure for ammonia transportation is already quite extensive: according to the International Energy Forum, there are about 120 ports around the world equipped with terminals for ammonia storage.
It must be said that the use of ammonia in transport is a recent development: for instance, Australia’s Aviation H2 plans to perform a test flight for a plane with an ammonia-powered engine by mid-2023. Meanwhile, hydrogen is already gaining popularity in this sector, as seen in the growing number of hydrogen filling stations. According to the TUV SUD certification centre, a total of 130 new filling stations were opened across the world in 2022, with the overall number of active stations worldwide reaching 814.
The innovation could also reduce the need for building expensive tankers for intercontinental transportation of liquid hydrogen. The world’s first sea shipment of hydrogen from the port of Hastings, Australia to Kobe, Japan was performed in early 2022 by the Suiso Frontier vessel with a deadweight of 75,000 tons. For that purpose, hydrogen produced by gasification from coal was initially transported in high-pressure tank cars to Hastings, where it was liquefied to be offloaded onto a tanker and subsequently shipped to Japan.