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Firms use “inexperienced” ammonia for fertilizers and future gas

As society tries to find ways to reduce its ecological footprint, the decarbonization of a wide variety of sectors and industrial processes will be critical in the years to come.

In order to find new solutions and technologies, time is of the essence if one can orient oneself on the latest findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The report released last week warned that limiting global warming to nearly 1.5 degrees Celsius or even 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels over the next two decades would be “unattainable” without immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions .

Against this sobering backdrop, a number of companies are trying to reduce the environmental impact of ammonia production, which, according to a policy briefing by the Royal Society, is responsible for around 1.8% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

On Monday, for example, three Norwegian companies – the energy company Statkraft, Aker Clean Hydrogen and the fertilizer specialist Yara – founded a company that focuses on the production of so-called “green” ammonia.

The new company, called HEGRA, is jointly owned by the three companies. According to Statkraft, which is itself owned by the Norwegian state, HEGRA will focus on electrifying and decarbonising an ammonia plant in Herøya, Norway.

The basic idea of ​​the initiative is to use renewable energies to produce ammonia on a large scale. The ammonia would then be used to make carbon-free fertilizers. Statkraft also described green ammonia as “a promising zero-emission fuel for the maritime sector”.

In a conversation with CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Monday morning, Yara CEO Svein Tore Holsether emphasized the importance of developing solutions for the big picture.

“The technology is there, but it’s also about making a product out of it,” he said. “And the nice thing about ammonia production and fertilizer production is that you already have an existing infrastructure.”

“By converting some of it into renewable energy using hydropower, as we speak here in Norway, we can make a renewable fertilizer product and deliver it to farmers on a large scale.”

As a schedule, Holsether stated that it would take five to seven years to get the project up and running.

Read more about clean energy from CNBC Pro

The founding of HEGRA is just one example of how companies are looking for ways to reduce the emissions associated with ammonia production.

Yara is also working with ENGIE in Australia on the development of a plant for the production of renewable hydrogen and ammonia. The project is supported by an Australian $ 42.5 million ($ 31.15 million) grant from the Australian Government.

Last week, oil and gas giant BP announced that “producing green hydrogen and green ammonia using renewable energy” was now technically feasible in Australia.

The energy company’s conclusion is based on the results of a feasibility study announced in May 2020, supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, solar developer Lightsource bp and professional service company GHD Advisory.

In a statement, BP described the vast state of Western Australia as “an ideal place” to develop “large-scale renewable energy plants that can in turn produce green hydrogen and / or green ammonia for domestic and export markets.”

– CNBC’s Sam Meredith contributed to this report

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