Yara Steps Up Plans for Green Ammonia as a Bunker Fuel

Porsgrunn ammonia plant (Yara)

Published Feb 9, 2021 2:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

Longtime fertilizer manufacturer Yara is stepping into the nascent low-carbon ammonia sector, announcing a new division focused on green ammonia as a marine fuel and fertilizer. 

"I am . . . pleased to announce we are taking further steps to enable the hydrogen economy, establishing a new global unit – Yara Clean Ammonia – to capture growth opportunities within carbon-free food solutions, shipping fuel and other clean ammonia applications, leveraging Yara’s unique existing positions within ammonia production, trade and shipping,” said Svein Tore Holsether, President and Chief Executive Officer of Yara.

The new unit will source clean energy for hydrogen production, then leverage Yara's experience with ammonia production to make green ammonia. The company's current trade, shipping and marketing divisions would handle distribution. The new unit will be headed by Magnus Ankarstrand and will report directly to Holsether. 

Its first project will likely be the full-scale electrification of a 500,000 tonne ammonia unit at its Porsgrunn plant in Norway. It would source renewable electricity from Norway's hydropower-driven electrical grid for the purpose of hydrolysis. Porsgrunn is one of Norway's largest single stationary CO2 sources, and the electrification project would have a significant positive contribution to Paris Climate Accord goals. It will be a return to the past for Yara, since its early 1930s-era ammonia production drew on Norwegian hydropower for water electrolysis. 

Yara's announcement is the latest in a string of proposals for ammonia as an energy storage medium and shipping fuel. Last week, Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) announced a plan to add 30 million tonnes per year of renewable ammonia to the country's fuel mix by 2050, intending to reduce emissions from legacy power plants and from Japanese shipping. Several green and blue ammonia plants have been proposed in Australia, including competing developments planned by InterContinental Energy and Fortescue. And in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Western Australia, several energy firms have proposed turning fossil fuels into "blue" hydrogen by extracting the H2 and capturing the carbon.