Energy transition

Tracking the Energy Transition: It’s a Gas, Gas, Gas

Hydrogen continues to rise, and ammonia production is not far behind. Plans to handle nitrous oxide are also bubbling to the surface. Big ideas crop up in Poland, as well as in the Permian. Are you trying to stay up to date about developments aimed at energy-transition efforts in our industry? This roundup of news recaps some recent announcements.

Fizzing Air Bubbles Abstract Background
Source: Jobalou/Getty Images

Heavy Metal Hydrogen
Energy consultancy Xodus and metals manufacturing company Unique Metals have reached an agreement to work together on a hydrogen project for Australia. The Unique HyMetals project is a green metals fabrication plan that will involve producing hydrogen to be used for power generation, oxygen generation for metals cutting, and fuel for on-site vehicles such as forklifts. Part of the plan is to optimize rooftop solar power to split water into the hydrogen and oxygen. With the new memorandum of understanding, Xodus will be looking at Unique Metals’ current emissions and how the HyMetals project could affect it.

The project has two phases. The first aims to use hydrogen to power and decarbonize the facility. The second phase aims to use excess hydrogen for commercial-scale refueling infrastructure. The initial construction phase is scheduled to start in 2022, with the second phase planned for 2025.

Unique HyMetals plans to build and operate a fully integrated hydrogen energy ecosystem with 65 tonnes of green hydrogen production, 20,000 MWh of green hydrogen energy for manufacturing, 7 tonnes of green hydrogen for transport, and 500 tonnes of pure green oxygen per year.

Bubbling Forth
Vision Hydrogen has been granted permits for a 25-MW green hydrogen plant in the North Sea Port of Terneuzen, The Netherlands. The hydrogen production facility will have tube-trailer loading and integrated distribution facilities. The platform is scalable, allowing it to grow to 75 MW. At 25 MW, the plant is expected to produce up to 3.5 million kg of green hydrogen per year, with up to 10.5 million kg of hydrogen at 75 MW. Terneuzen is a strategic location for the project, being close to existing high-voltage power and gas infrastructure. Less than 1,500 m from the site is the 150-kV ground station of TenneT, the Dutch national high-voltage grid operator, and less than 1,400 m away is the connection point to the Yara-Dow-Zeeland Refinery Pipeline, which may be repurposed for hydrogen transport to the Zeeland Refinery in the future. Next to the site is the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal, providing water access to the major European Port of Ghent. VisionH2 and Virya say they plan to build the initial 25-MW electrolysis plant using proven, commercially available technology.

Gazprom is planning to engage in pilot hydrogen energy projects based in Russia. The Gazprom Board of Directors recently took note of information about the development of hydrogen production in the Russian Federation and its potential uses.

The board heard that the development of hydrogen energy in Russia is essential both for the decarbonization of the domestic industry and for exports to the global hydrogen market. This line of activity is becoming increasingly relevant in the context of the climate agenda in the global economy and energy sector.

Jointly with the relevant ministries, the company has drawn up a draft roadmap to get involved. The draft document has been submitted to the Ministry of Energy for further approval by the Russian government.

Gazprom said it is looking at hydrogen both as a means to reduce the carbon footprint of natural-gas supplies and as a commercial product. Gazprom Hydrogen, a special-purpose company, was established to carry out innovative projects and devise integrated solutions in the area of natural-gas-based hydrogen technologies.

The Gazprom Group’s enterprises currently produce more than 350,000 tons of hydrogen and hydrogen-containing gas per year.

Put That Hydrogen to Good Use
Reuters reported that global wind power group Iberdrola and Swedish startup H2 Green Steel plan to build a vast renewable hydrogen plant on the Iberian Peninsula. The plant is planned to power the production of iron used to make steel. The report says that Iberdrola and H2 Green Steel said they are seeking a location in Spain or Portugal to build an electrolysis plant and a direct reduction tower to treat iron ore, which they said they hope to fire up by 2026.

Iberdrola will spend around $907 million on new renewable capacity to power the electrolyzer, its head of hydrogen, Millan Garcia-Tolla, told Reuters. Producing steel with green hydrogen emits 95% less carbon than with coal, and customers are willing to pay 25% more for it, H2 Green Steel Chief Executive Henrik Henriksson said.

“If first of all we attack ... those current uses of gray hydrogen and we plan projects to 2025–2026 like cement or green steel, I think we are going to make big steps,” Iberdrola’s Garcia-Tolla said.

Reuters also reports that Australia’s Infinity Lithium said that it will collaborate with a unit of Germany’s Thyssenkrupp to explore the use of green hydrogen in producing lithium.

Lithium is an essential component of electric vehicles (EVs) and is becoming increasingly important as EV demand surges.

The news service reports that the companies will start a pilot program at a Thyssenkrupp facility in Germany, with the potential for the technology to be integrated into Infinity’s San José lithium project in Spain.

Ammonia, Cleaner
A story from the New Atlas publication reveals a new technique to make ammonia. Scientists at Australia’s Monash University claim to have made a breakthrough in green ammonia production that could displace the dirty Haber-Bosch process.

Virtually all the ammonia produced today is made using the Haber-Bosch cycle, the story says. That process uses methane to produce hydrogen, which, in turn, is reacted with nitrogen to produce ammonia. Natural gas is usually used further to promote the reaction. The story points out that the Haber-Bosch cycle results in carbon-dioxide and nitrous-oxide emissions and nitrate pollution. Now, the researchers have found a way to create the ammonia without using natural gas.

The new technique involves an electrolytic process and was discovered, like so many scientific discoveries, by accident. The researchers were working on a way to make bleach from salt water when they wondered if they could use the same process to make ammonia. The answer was yes, they could. Read more about it in New Atlas here.

The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and ADQ announced that Japan’s Mitsui & Co. and the Republic of Korea’s GS Energy Corporation have agreed to partner with TA’ZIZ and Fertiglobe to develop a global-scale low-carbon blue ammonia facility at the TA’ZIZ Industrial Chemicals Zone in Ruwais. The partnerships are expected to accelerate Abu Dhabi’s position as a leader in low-carbon fuels, capitalizing on the growing demand for blue ammonia as a carrier fuel for clean hydrogen.

Low-carbon blue ammonia is made from nitrogen and clean hydrogen derived from natural gas feedstocks, with the carbon dioxide byproduct from hydrogen production captured and stored. Blue ammonia can be used as a low-carbon fuel across a wide range of applications, including transportation, power generation, and industries including steel, cement, and fertilizer production.

In addition to becoming partners, Mitsui and GS Energy will, upon equity participation and supply commencement, off-take significant volumes of low-carbon blue ammonia to meet growing demand in the energy and industrial sectors in Japan and Korea, respectively.

The partnerships follow a recent project framework agreement signed by ADNOC and Fertiglobe to advance the production of low-carbon blue ammonia at TA’ZIZ, subject to relevant regulatory and company approvals.

No Laughing Matter
Clariant, a specialty chemical company, launched a global campaign to reduce the climate-change effects of nitrous oxide (N2O). The company has developed the EnviCat N2O-S catalyst, which removes up to 95% of N2O generated as a byproduct of nitric acid production.

Of the approximately 500 nitric acid plants operating globally, more than half run without N2O abatement, mostly in regions without applicable emission control regulations. Clariant is offering a free fill of EnviCat N2O-S to 10 nitric acid producers who do not have N2O off-gas treatment in place. Through the campaign, the company intends to help avoid greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions equivalent to several million tons of carbon dioxide every year.

Clariant’s EnviCat N2O-S catalyst removes N2O from the tail gas of nitric acid plants and converts it into harmless nitrogen and oxygen.
Source: Clariant

Over 60 million tons of nitric acid are produced annually around the world, mainly for manufacturing fertilizers. Despite its importance for the food chain, the chemical has a major drawback: Its production emits N2O, which is extremely harmful for the climate. The GHG remains approximately 114 years in the atmosphere and, thus, affects global warming around 300 times more than CO2. Annually, N2O emissions from the production of nitric acid and its derivative adipic acid are equivalent to about 100 million tons of CO2.

Catch the Sun
Reuters reported that Israel has chosen local infrastructure group Shikun and Shikun & Binui to build its largest solar energy field. The photovoltaic field is expected to generate up to 300 MW of electricity. Israel’s Finance Ministry told Reuters that the tender for the field had a final price of $0.0271/kWh and includes an energy storage component that will have a capacity of 210 MWh. The ministry said that price was significantly lower than the production of energy “using polluting fuels.”

Plumbing Poland
Nofar Energy is continuing recent expansion by entering Poland’s renewable energy market. The company reported that Nofar Europe executed an agreement with Electrum, an engineering and technology company in the Polish market, on the joint holding of a corporation that will initiate, develop, manage, and maintain photovoltaic and wind energy projects with a capacity of up to 1,250 MW.

The two companies will comanage the joint venture, including identifying opportunities for renewable energy in Poland, initiation, development, and acquisition of greenfield and ready-to-build renewable energy projects, and project maintenance. Nofar Europe will own 80% of the joint corporation, and Electrum will own the remaining 20%.

In February 2021, the Polish government adopted the Polish Energy Policy for 2040. The policy stipulates that, by 2030, coal-based electricity will be reduced from 66 to 56%, CO2 emissions will be reduced by 30%, and the rate of renewable energies in power generation will increase from 13% to at least 23%. Furthermore, the Polish government has also undertaken to shut down all the coal mines in the country by 2049.

Exxon’s Permian Hopes
Exxon Mobil unveiled a plan to achieve net-zero GHG emissions from its Permian Basin operated assets by 2030, part of the companywide effort to reduce the intensity of upstream GHG emissions by 40%–50% by 2030 from 2016 levels.

Exxon also said it will eliminate routine flaring at its Permian Basin operations by the end of 2022, after reducing flaring volumes across its Permian operations by more than 75% at the end of this year compared with 2019.

The company says its GHG reduction efforts in the Permian will be supported by electrifying operations through low-carbon power with carbon capture and storage and said it plans to expand its methane-detection programs using satellite surveillance and a network of ground-based sensors for continuous monitoring.

Exxon also says it is on track to exceed its GHG reduction plans announced a year ago, and expects year-end 2021 results will show a reduction of 15–20% in GHG intensity from upstream operations, a 40–50% cut in methane intensity, and a 35–45% reduction in flaring intensity compared with 2016.

BP Goes Electric
BP took its first major step into electrification in the US with the acquisition of AMPLY Power, an electric vehicle (EV) charging and energy management provider for fleets that operate trucks, transit and school buses, vans, and light-duty vehicles.

The company said that, by 2030, it aims to nearly double earnings from its global convenience and mobility businesses—increasing from around $5 billion in 2019—while delivering returns in the range of 15–20%. BP said that, during this time, it plans to grow its global network of EV charging points from around 11,000 today to more than 70,000.

“BP is aiming to speed up electrification in the fast-growing fleet segment, which is key to lowering emissions from the transport sector, the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the US,” said Richard Bartlett, BP’s senior vice president for future mobility and solutions.

ADNOC, GE Plot Roadmap
ADNOC and GE Gas Power announced a joint cooperation initiative to develop a decarbonization roadmap that includes reducing carbon emissions from gas turbines used to power ADNOC’s downstream and industry operations, including at the Ruwais Industrial Complex, in Abu Dhabi.

Under the terms of the initiative, ADNOC and GE will explore using hydrogen and hydrogen-blended fuels for lower-carbon power generation; evaluating introducing ammonia as a fuel to power ADNOC’s GE gas turbines; integrating carbon-capture solutions at ADNOC’s power generation facilities; and joint research and development programs to develop solutions to reduce carbon emissions from gas-based power generation.

When the Wind Blows
Reuters reports that British utility SSE and Equinor have secured financing to proceed with the construction of the $3.98 billion Dogger Bank C offshore wind farm in Britain. Dogger Bank C will have a capacity of 1,200 MW and generate about 6,000 GWh of electricity a year when completed in 2026, the companies said.

Dogger Bank C is the third phase of what is touted as the world’s largest offshore wind farm. The companies said it will produce enough renewable energy to supply 5% of Britain’s demand, equivalent to 6 million homes.

The two companies have previously agreed to sell a 20% stake in the Dogger Bank C project to Italy’s Eni, which already owns an equal share in the first two phases of Dogger Bank. Construction of the first two phases is already under way.