Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022

Traditional ammonia production methods have required fossil gas as a raw material.  Australian research could make these techniques obsolete.  (Photo credit: Canva).

An Australian start-up hopes to revolutionize ammonia production after signing an exclusive license for a potentially groundbreaking fossil-free process developed at Melbourne’s Monash University and raising $ 2.5 million in start-up funding.

As RenewEconomy reported on Monday, researchers at Monash University have developed new, innovative processes for the production of ammonia that utilizes electricity, making it possible to produce it using zero-emission renewable energy and eliminate a traditional dependence on fossil gas as a raw material. .

Ammonia is already produced in large quantities for use as fertilizer. Its production accounts for about 2 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, with about two tonnes of carbon dioxide released for every tonne of ammonia produced using fossil gas.

Ammonia has also emerged as a potential green fuel and as a storage mechanism for hydrogen, and therefore the ability to produce ammonia efficiently and with zero associated emissions has attracted increased attention.

Most of the world’s ammonia is produced using fossil gas as a key ingredient, and the new method of producing ammonia without the need for fossil fuels, developed at Monash University, is a significant breakthrough and can be the catalyst for a boom in green hydrogen. industry.

The Monash research, which opened up promising new methods of producing hydrogen using an electrolysis technique that allows it to be powered directly by wind and solar power supplies, has now been licensed to the university’s spin-off Jupiter Ionics, which already has secured $ 2.5 million in start-up funding.

Jupiter Ionics’ CEO, Dr. Charlie Day, said the startup would accelerate the commercialization of the potentially groundbreaking research that could threaten to make fossil fuel-based ammonia production obsolete.

“Jupiter Ionic’s technology, exclusively licensed from Monash University, uses renewable electricity, air and water as inputs to make ammonia without carbon emissions,” Day said.

“The Monash team that developed the technology is internationally recognized as being at the forefront of electrochemical ammonia technology.”

Green hydrogen is being touted as a high-potential substitute for a range of fossil fuels, including for use in transport, energy storage and industrial processes, and countries such as Australia are rapidly establishing themselves as global suppliers.

A challenge for potential hydrogen exporters, however, is the difficulties of storing and transporting hydrogen, which have so far proved to be energy-intensive and expensive. Ammonia, which can be used as a cost-effective storage medium for hydrogen, is significantly easier to store and transport with well-established industries and supply chains that are already familiar with the material.

Ammonia has the ability to be used directly as a transport fuel, especially for heavy shipping, and as a storage medium for hydrogen – where ammonia molecules are a nitrogen atom bonded with three hydrogen atoms.

Researchers at CSIRO are also developing new technologies for efficient extraction of hydrogen from ammonia.

Monash University’s chemistry professor Doug Macfarlane, who helped lead the development of the innovative production technique, said it should have an advantage over traditional ammonia production methods.

“Ammonia is recognized as a key challenge for global decarbonisation efforts, such as those discussed in detail at the recent COP26 meeting in Glasgow,” Macfarlane said.

“Our recent breakthrough has opened a new path to producing green ammonia, which has several significant advantages over alternative approaches.”

Day said the global ammonia market was already significant and expected to grow significantly larger as demand for zero-emission fuels continues to grow.

“The current global market for ammonia is worth about $ 70 billion [A$112 billion], but proposed new uses of green ammonia as a marine fuel and a form of energy storage means that there may be many multiples of it in the future, ”said Day.

“This investment will enable us to track our development program so that we are well positioned to meet the growing demand.”

“Australia’s abundant reserves of renewable energy position us very well to play a leading role in the shift to a future of low carbon,” Day added.

The Monash University research team said their new ammonia production technology could be scaled in line with its intended use, enabling cost-effective production of fossil fuel-free ammonia on both small and large scales.

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