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Hydrogen economy

Korea forms ambitious public-private green ammonia alliance

Each firm will participate in a different area across a wide green ammonia and green hydrogen value chain

By Jul 16, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Saudi Arabian Mining Company ammonia plant, built by Samsung Engineering
Saudi Arabian Mining Company ammonia plant, built by Samsung Engineering

South Korea has taken a major step forward in building the hydrogen economy by forming an extensive green ammonia alliance involving 13 private firms and five public institutions.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) and Korea Institute of Energy Research (KIER) on July 15 held an agreement ceremony to formally announce the establishment of the alliance with long-term aims to achieve carbon neutrality.

The 13 firms present at the ceremony were: Doosan Fuel Cell, Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction Co., Samsung Engineering, Hanwha Solutions, Hyundai Glovis Co., Hyundai Heavy Industries, Hyundai Oilbank, Hyundai Motor Co., Hyundai Steel, Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering, Lotte Chemical Corp., Lotte Fine Chemical and POSCO.

The five public institutions to join the alliance include KIER, Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology (KRICT) and Korea Gas Safety Corporation (KGS).

The agreement ceremony held on July 15 (Courtesy of Samsung Engineering)
The agreement ceremony held on July 15 (Courtesy of Samsung Engineering)

The alliance will not only produce and transport green ammonia but also extract hydrogen back from the ammonia for various uses in the hydrogen sector.  

Green ammonia refers to ammonia that is produced through 100% renewable and carbon-free processes. It can be made by combining green hydrogen, also made from 100% renewable energy sources, with nitrogen from the air.

Green ammonia has become the center of attention in the global hydrogen sector due to its practicality in transporting green hydrogen.

Hydrogen, which is often regarded as the fuel of the future, has a critical downside in that its storage and transportation are extremely difficult. It is not only highly explosive but also needs to be cooled to an ultra-low temperature of -253°C for storage and transportation.

In contrast, ammonia can be transported easily at room temperature in its liquefied form. Ammonia can also store 1.7 times more hydrogen than when transported as liquefied hydrogen, given the same-sized container.

In short, green hydrogen is initially made into green ammonia for storage and transportation, after which the green ammonia is decomposed back into hydrogen again for industrial use.

Experts also highlight that ammonia is a material whose industry infrastructure, such as import terminals, is well-established in multiple countries due to its wide use as a fertilizer.

“Ammonia will play a key role in achieving carbon neutrality as a means of hydrogen storage and transportation,” said International Energy Agency (IEA).

PRIVATE SECTOR-LED EXPANSION OF THE AMMONIA VALUE CHAIN

(Graphics by Jerry Lee)
(Graphics by Jerry Lee)

The specific action plans of the alliance will be devised and implemented by the participating private companies. The firms agreed to jointly develop technologies with regards to ammonia production and transportation, extraction of hydrogen from green ammonia, as well as using the extracted hydrogen for gas turbines and fuel cells.  

Specifically, Samsung Engineering and Doosan Heavy Industries will be responsible for making green hydrogen into green ammonia from their plants located overseas.

“We have a successful track record in constructing a number of mid- and large-sized ammonia production plants in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East,” said a Samsung Engineering representative.

Hyundai Glovis will transport the produced green ammonia from overseas locations to Korea, where Lotte Fine Chemical, the market leader of ammonia distribution in the country with more than a 70% share, will be in charge of logistics.  

Another Lotte affiliate, Lotte Chemical, will convert the green ammonia back to hydrogen, which will be supplied to Hyundai Oilbank’s hydrogen charging stations.  

The steelmakers POSCO and Hyundai Steel will also be using green hydrogen in hydrogen-based steelmaking processes.

“The government will also actively provide assistance to the firms in developing various mediums of green hydrogen storage and transportation,” said MOTIE’s Deputy Minister for Energy and Resources Joo Young-joon.

Write to Kyung-min Kang and Ji-hoon Lee at kkm1026@hankyung.com

Daniel Cho edited this article.

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