Why Are Companies In A Rush To Create Green Ammonia?

During the 19th Century, Europeans discovered a fact that the Inca civilization had understood for a long time: bird droppings, known as guano, proved to be an excellent fertilizer.

Why Are Companies In A Rush To Create Green Ammonia?

Why Are Companies In A Rush To Create Green Ammonia? Richness In Ammonia

The 19th Century saw the rise of a massive industry dedicated to extracting guano from Latin American bird colonies, known for its richness in ammonia, a crucial fertilizer component. However, with the advent of the Haber-Bosch process, developed by German chemists Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch, which synthesized ammonia, the world transitioned away from guano reliance.

For over a century, the Haber-Bosch process has been essential for sustaining the world’s population, as ammonia fertilizer plays a pivotal role in food production. Yet, the environmental impact of this process, particularly when powered by fossil fuels, raises concerns, with ammonia production contributing nearly 2% to global CO2 emissions.

Renewable Energy

Now, several companies aim to revolutionize ammonia production by focusing on green alternatives to mitigate environmental damage. One such company is Starfire Energy, a US-based firm developing a method to produce ammonia from renewable energy, air, and water. Utilizing electrolysers to split hydrogen from water and combining it with nitrogen, Starfire’s process operates on intermittent renewable energy sources, providing flexibility and reducing production time compared to conventional methods.

Ammonia Production

The goal is not only to make ammonia production cleaner but also to make the technology more compact. Starfire Energy envisions packaging its technology in a space as small as a shipping container, challenging the colossal Haber-Bosch plants. Other companies, like Atmonia in Iceland, share a similar vision of creating mini ammonia factories to promote local production and reduce transportation emissions.

Beyond fertilizers, companies like Jupiter Ionics explore ammonia’s potential as a fuel, offering an alternative to fossil fuels in transportation. While there is significant interest in ammonia as a fuel, the challenge lies in scaling up production to meet expected demand.

Different technologies emerge, such as Jupiter Ionics using lithium as a mediator, breaking apart nitrogen molecules to form ammonia. Nitricity in the US proposes a unique approach, utilizing solar-powered plasma cells to fix nitrogen from the air for soil application.

Despite diverse approaches, the successful scaling up of these technologies remains a significant challenge. Other options, like a direct approach to applying nitrogen to soil, are explored to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The evolving landscape showcases efforts to move away from traditional ammonia production methods, signaling a shift toward more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives.

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