Hybrid LNG & ammonia infrastructure: Key to India’s green economy
Opinion

Hybrid LNG & ammonia infrastructure: Key to India’s green economy

Interest in ammonia will only grow as the world races towards decarbonisation. Backed by advances in emerging technologies, ammonia offers new opportunity to help accelerate the world’s transition to a carbon-free society

  • By Rajiv Menon , Country Manager & MD – India, Black & Veatch | August 29, 2022

As the power industry advances its efforts to decarbonise amid rising global demand for carbon-free energy sources, ammonia’s role in the green energy economy continues to evolve.

India is one country that has identified hydrogen and ammonia as alternative fuels to replace fossil fuels. Producing green hydro[1]gen and green ammonia by using renewable energy will help the country achieve environ[1]mentally sustainable energy security.

Positioning ammonia as a key player in India’s zero-carbon energy landscape will re[1]quire ammonia-ready storage and transportation infrastructure.

A gas at room temperature, ammonia is incredibly stable and can be easily liquified for storage and shipment around the globe in the same fashion as liquefied natural gas (LNG). It can be used across energy-intensive industries in several ways to help lower global carbon footprint:

• Made up of one nitrogen and three hydro[1]gen atoms, ammonia can also be decom[1]posed or “cracked” to produce hydrogen along with nitrogen, a non-greenhouse gas.

• Ammonia produced from renewable energy (or green ammonia) can serve as an energy storage medium, able to store electricity during high periods of production and transport that energy to parts of the globe with limited access to renewable energy sources.

• Ammonia can be burnt directly as a carbon emissions-free energy source, thanks to the development of new technologies that produce ammonia from renewable energy or reforming of methane with captured CO2.

Ammonia also offers new possibilities to facilitate the use of hydrogen, which is emerging as a zero-carbon breakthrough that promises to transform the power generation market.

AMMONIA A KEY PLAYER IN THE HYDROGEN REVOLUTION

Backed by new advances in technology, hydrogen is expected to rise in prominence over the next decade.

According to Black & Veatch’s 2022 Asia Electric Report, when looking out more than 10 years from now, 73 percent of respondents believe that hydrogen will help meet carbon emission goals more than any other technology (Figure 1) while 46 percent think it will take off as a clean and affordable alternative to gas generation.

However, fully integrating hydrogen into the energy mix will be a complicated endeavor, as the low volumetric energy density of hydrogen – and its extremely low boiling point – have made it challenging, both technically and economically, to develop infrastructure for the large-scale storage and transportation of hydrogen.

Ammonia, on the other hand, offers sev[1]eral desirable characteristics as a hydrogen carrier:

First, ammonia can be liquefied under mild conditions. The boiling point of am[1]monia at atmospheric pressure is -33°C (-28°F), similar to propane. Ammonia has been produced for industrial and agricultural purposes, and proven methods of storing and transporting liquefied ammonia at scale are available.

Second, ammonia is more energy dense than hydrogen. The volumetric hydrogen density of liquid ammonia is about 45-per[1]cent higher than that of liquid hydrogen, which means that more hydrogen can be stored in liquid ammonia compared to liquid hydrogen with the same volume.

One pathway to accelerating India’s decarbonisation efforts will be to convert India’s extensive LNG infrastructure – its existing LNG receiving terminals and storage facilities – to facilitate the safe, efficient transport of ammonia.

LNG INFRASTRUCTURE OFFERS OPPORTUNITY

LNG has been used as an energy source for over 50 years, due to its reputation as the cleanest fossil fuel as well as its ability to balance out the power generation mix. This has led to growing investment in LNG storage and transportation infrastructure.

India, for instance, has set a target to raise the share of natural gas in its energy mix to 15 percent by 2030 from 6.7 percent in 2021. To achieve the target, initiatives it plans to take include the expansion of its national gas grid to about 35,000 kilometres (km) from the current 20,000 km as well as its LNG terminal capacity.

 With this extensive global infrastructure in place, LNG receiving terminals and stor[1]age facilities can be modified to facilitate the safe and efficient transport of ammonia in the global energy trade.

On that note, India’s LNG and gas power plant owners and developers would be well[1]served to begin preparing their LNG receiving terminals to become ammonia-ready, and to receive liquefied ammonia when needed as renewable energy production continues to increase.

CONCLUSION

Interest in ammonia will only grow as the world races towards decarbonisation. Backed by advances in emerging technologies, ammonia offers new opportunity to help accelerate the world’s transition to a carbon-free society.

Proven methods of storing and transporting ammonia already exist, and the supply chain of ammonia for CO2-free energy is developing. For LNG terminals to play a critical role in the safe and efficient transport of liquid ammonia, strong industry partnerships will be critical. Black & Veatch, with its 80-year history working with hydrogen and ammonia production in the fertilizer industry, has

been supporting the industry with commercial ammonia and LNG infrastructure projects. Expertise in syngas and acid gas processing, sulfur recovery, material handling, power generation, power delivery and water treatment allows the company to provide its clients with complete feasibility assessments to engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) project services regardless of the project scope.

Sidebar: Leveraging business intelligence to enhance operations, maintenance and decarbonisation pathways

Fast evolving technologies, fluctuating fuel costs and a shrinking pool of experienced operators and subject matter experts to manage systems and processes effectively are key challenges faced by India’s process industry, including the chemicals sector.

Industry research suggest that billions of dollars have been incurred by process plants due to unplanned downtime of critical equipment and other forced upsets.

Fatalities have also been reported due to operational malfunctions, equipment failure and/ or unsafe conditions leading to loss of human lives, in addition to costly litigations.

Integrating Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT) is one approach to improve the reliability and efficiency, and resilience of India’s process industry.

Merging data analytics with engineering expertise can help to deliver timely and action[1]able insights that optimise the full potential of the industry’s assets and facilities, and help the industry transition effectively to lower carbon operations.

Integrated communications and analytics tools, like Black & Veatch’s Asset360, enable these opportunities for prioritised improvement and to identify potential critical system failures in a timely manner.

ASSET360® synergises data analytics, people and processes to facilitate round the clock cloud-based, secure remote monitoring of industrial assets capable of delivering timely and actionable operation[1]al insights.

ASSET360®’s Asset Performance Management program can help India’s process industry, including the fertilizer manufacturing sector, draw on sensor data to detect emerging risks, minimise unplanned down[1]time, enhance efficiency, improve performance and safety, and improve planning effectiveness.

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