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1921–2021: A Century of Renewable Ammonia Synthesis


Synthetic ammonia, manufactured by the Haber–Bosch process and its variants, is the key to securing global food security. Hydrogen is the most important feedstock for all synthetic ammonia processes. Renewable ammonia production relies on hydrogen generated by water electrolysis using electricity generated from hydropower. This was used commercially as early as 1921. In the present work, we discuss how renewable ammonia production subsequently emerged in those countries endowed with abundant hydropower, and in particular in regions with limited or no oil, gas, and coal deposits. Thus, renewable ammonia played an important role in national food security for countries without fossil fuel resources until after the mid-20th century. For economic reasons, renewable ammonia production declined from the 1960s onward in favor of fossil-based ammonia production. However, renewable ammonia has recently gained traction again as an energy vector. It is an important component of the rapidly emerging hydrogen economy. Renewable ammonia will probably play a significant role in maintaining national and global energy and food security during the 21st century.

Funding source: This research was co-financed by TKI—Energie from Toeslag voor Topconsortia voor Kennis en Innovatie (TKI) from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, The Netherlands.
Related subjects: Applications & Pathways

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