Nel Hydrogen, the parent business of Proton Onsite, is a member of a team investigating more sustainable methods of producing ammonia, with funds provided by a government grant.

According to Dr. Kathy Ayers, vice president of research and development at Nel, the production of ammonia – a nitrogen-hydrogen combination — consumes the most energy and produces the most carbon dioxide of all the compounds produced at scale.

Nel is supplying electrolyzers — hydrogen generators that employ electricity to split water into its basic elements of hydrogen and oxygen — for the project, enabling the use of renewable hydrogen into the ammonia synthesis process.

The project’s objective is to reduce the cost of renewable hydrogen by lowering capital costs and enhancing efficiency, Ayers explained.

Eight to ten employees are working on various areas of electrolyzer assembly at Nel’s Wallingford factory, she said, with another two to three scientists involved in the research side of the project.

Nel’s study also includes demonstrating how the electrolyzer units may be integrated into current ammonia operations.

Nel is one of several team members on this project under the auspices of RTI International, a not-for-profit research organization.

In May, the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) awarded RTI a $10 million grant under the REFUEL+IT initiative to convert renewable energy to fuels through the use of energy-dense liquids.

According to a statement from RTI, the main goal is to demonstrate novel technologies for creating and utilizing low-carbon energy carriers such as ammonia that can be easily transported for use in agriculture, industry, and as a source of energy.

According to Stephen Szymanski, vice president of sales and marketing for Nel in the Americas, Nel electrolyzers can take renewable energy sources such as wind and sun and convert it to hydrogen in an emission-free process.

The project team also comprises Casale, the University of Minnesota, Nutrien, GE, Xcel Energy, Great River Energy, Otter Tail Power Company, Runestone Electric Association, Chemtronergy, Texas Tech University, Pacifica, and the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute.

Nedim Husomanovic

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