The Paris Agreement, arising from the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21), a legally binding international treaty, came into force on 4 November 2016. The Paris Agreement provides a durable framework to guide, over the coming years, global efforts of reaching carbon net zero.
Decarbonising fuel is a major part of the plan and there are already a few serious players in the Electric Vehicle (EV) and Hydrogen market. However, there is another option that is growing in recognition and credibility – Ammonia.
Ammonia as a carbon-free source of fuel is not a concept from a science-fiction novel. It is here today and leading the way is a US based company called Amogy. Amogy was launched in 2020 by four Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) PhD alumni who shared a common vision of decarbonising the transportation sector, their contribution to helping the world reach Carbon Net Zero by 2050. The start-up has received a total of $208 million in funding from investment firms AP Ventures and DCVC, Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, the corporate venture arm of oil giant Saudi Arabia Aramco Energy Ventures, South Korean conglomerate SKI Innovations and Singapore’s state holding company Temasek and others.
Amogy has developed the technology to convert ammonia into a sustainable power source to decarbonise transportation. The company has developed a chemical reactor to take liquid ammonia stored in fuel tanks and “crack” the compound into hydrogen and nitrogen. The hydrogen flows through a fuel cell, which converts chemical energy into electricity to drive the motors.
SO WHY AMMONIA AND HOW DOES IT COMPARE WITH OTHER FORMS OF FUEL?
Ammonia is carbon-free at the point of use. Ammonia is powerful. It is energy dense. The volumetric energy density of liquid ammonia is nearly three times (3x) greater than that of compressed hydrogen. So, if we were to test two modes of transportation – one using ammonia and the other using hydrogen – over an equivalent distance, the vehicle powered by ammonia would need a tank three times less voluminous as the one powered by hydrogen.
Ammonia is easy to store. At an ambient temperature, ammonia can be stored as a liquid with only mild pressure. This reduces the cost, complexity and space requirements for storage compared with liquid hydrogen and liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Lastly, but not least, ammonia is already in our supply chain. In the agricultural sector, ammonia is ubiquitous, as a fertilizer. The production, transport and usage already have the technological maturity, infrastructure and familiarity of the public.
The technology behind Amogy’s innovation can be applied to various industries – shipping, trucking, material-handling equipment and distributed energy systems and more. It makes sense for Amogy to have their sights on commercial transportation, as it accounts for 9% of today’s global CO2 emissions. Shipping, alone, is responsible for 2% of global CO2 emissions.
To-date, the company has successfully powered a drone flight at a 5kW scale, a tractor using a 100kW powerpack and a semi-truck by scaling the powerpack to 300kW. This year, Amogy is planning to scale to 1MW in a boat demonstration. Beyond that, they plan to scale to 10+MW to power container ships on transoceanic voyages. With that rate of progress, it would be feasible to see ammonia as a mainstream, carbonfree source of fuel before 2050.