Siemens Energy, FFI, and GeoPura developing prototype ammonia crackers to produce hydrogen

In Newcastle, UK, a collaboration led by Siemens Energy has started construction of a new £3.5 million (US$4.24 million) ammonia cracker prototype that would generate green hydrogen on an industrial scale. 200 kg of hydrogen will be delivered daily by the prototype using ammonia, which is enough to power 5–10 hydrogen fuel cell buses.

With the help of the ammonia cracker system, green hydrogen might be produced on a large scale wherever and whenever it is required. The system will use FFI’s Metal Membrane Technology (MMT) purification method to deliver highly pure hydrogen appropriate for PEM fuel cell application.

The production of high-purity hydrogen from the ammonia cracking process relies on the MMT method, which was created by FFI and Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) (previous post, earlier post). At the moment of refueling, it allows the hydrogen to be used as a fuel and transformed as necessary by selectively filtering it while obstructing other gases.

Ammonia is easily transportable in bulk and has a high hydrogen density. It can be used to store vast volumes of hydrogen in liquid form, expanding the infrastructure of the current global supply chain. The conventional method of making ammonia has been using “grey” or “black” hydrogen generated from coal or natural gas. There are no CO2 emissions produced during the Haber-Bosch process used to create “green” ammonia from “green” hydrogen utilizing renewable energy.

If successful, the cracker and MMT will enable the recovery and delivery of the green hydrogen as high-purity hydrogen at the place of consumption, with an emphasis on mobility and off-grid power applications. In the future, the technique might be scaled up for uses in grid-scale power production, industries, and heating.

With ammonia, Siemens Energy has demonstrated innovation experience. Previously, the group was in charge of a group project at Oxfordshire’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL). The proof-of-concept facility, which cost £1.5 million (US$1.8 million), displayed an ammonia-based energy storage system that converted electricity, water, and air into ammonia without emitting carbon dioxide. Before being used to produce power, the ammonia is stored. The ammonia cracker prototype closes a supply chain gap in the technology since ammonia cracking was excluded from the original RAL demonstrator.

According to the UK Government, hydrogen might account for up to one-third of the country’s energy mix by 2050, however, in order for this to be feasible, issues with hydrogen storage and transportation must be resolved. The ammonia cracker prototype intends to assist in overcoming these difficulties.

Innovative technology solutions and engineering know-how are provided by Siemens Energy and FFI. As the off-taker, GeoPura will take the hydrogen product from the prototype ammonia cracker system for use in their fuel cell power production technology. GeoPura will also provide on-site supervision.

GeoPura intends to supply Hydrogen Power Units with this hydrogen (HPUs). HPUs are utilized as an off-grid option to offer zero-emission power to a variety of businesses, including TV production, like Netflix and BBC’s Winterwatch, and construction projects, like HS2. HPUs are used to replace heavily polluting diesel generators.