Announced on Thursday (May 12), ‘The role of ammonia in the North West hydrogen economy’ report by the North West Hydrogen Alliance (NWHA), outlined that energy imports to the UK could be diversified by using ammonia as a hydrogen carrier. 

Low-carbon hydrogen will be transported via pipelines for distribution to industry and other sectors of the economy to replace fossil fuels. Alternatively, the hydrogen can be refrigerated to very low temperatures to store and transport it in liquid form for international shipping.  

Using ammonia, a compound made of hydrogen and nitrogen, means it can be easier to liquify and transport over long distances. It can also provide additional hydrogen storage capacity. 

 Hydrogen forms a key part of the UK’s net zero plans, recently featuring heavily in the Government’s Energy Security Strategy and the North West’s Cluster Plan, a roadmap to decarbonising the region’s industrial cluster.  

The North West is already making significant strides in developing a hydrogen economy. The region is home to the hydrogen and carbon capture project HyNet North West, which will deliver amongst the lowest cost carbon dioxide transport and storage infrastructure in the UK by extensively repurposing existing onshore and offshore assets. 

The project can deliver nearly 40% of the Government’s new national 2030 target for low carbon hydrogen production. HyNet North West is planning to be operational from 2025. 

Read more: HyNet Hydrogen Production Plant – the UK’s first large-scale low carbon hydrogen facility 

Professor Joe Howe, Chair at the North West Hydrogen Alliance and Executive Director of Thornton Research Institute at the University of Chester, said, Ammonia could be an important component of the hydrogen economy, providing a cost-effective way to store and transport the low-carbon fuel around the UK and beyond.   

“The North West is ideally placed to capitalise on this market. We have mature supply chains used to producing and handling ammonia in large quantities, coupled with a high demand for hydrogen from industry looking to decarbonise.  

“The success of ammonia will be down to its versatility. Not only can it be a low carbon hydrogen carrier, but it can also be used as a green fertiliser and shipping fuel.” 

More broadly, ammonia could also play a role in decarbonising the UK’s energy imports. The low cost of solar energy overseas mean green ammonia plants in places like North Africa and the Middle East could supplement domestic supply.  

With the UK currently importing some 200TWh of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) every year, ammonia can act as low carbon alternative. With the North West boasting one of the UK’s largest and most centrally placed ports at Liverpool, it could be a key location for ammonia imports. 

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