At the end of May 2022, Amogy, Inc., a startup based in Brooklyn, New York, demonstrated a zero-emission ammonia-powered tractor. To demonstrate, Amogy incorporated its power ammonia technology into a standard mid-size John Deere. tractor, which gives it an output of 100 kW. The technology uses ammonia cracking modules with a hybrid fuel cell system in combination with a fluid reservoir. During the demonstration, the ammonia tractor was operated for several periods and refueling took place. The demonstration took place at Stony Brook University in New York. (In 2021, the startup demonstrated a 1 kW, zero-emission drone powered by ammonia.) Amogy received funding from AP Ventures and Amazon’s Climate Change Fund; was founded in 2020. The CEO of the company, Seonghoon Woo, answered some questions regarding tractor demonstration and technology for CleanTechnica.
Why use ammonia as fuel?
Ammonia is attracting increasing attention as a factor in reducing emissions in transport sectors that are difficult to reduce, such as long-distance trucking, locomotives, aviation and shipping. Ammonia, which is produced by combining hydrogen with atmospheric nitrogen, has been used in various industries for more than a century, primarily as a chemical precursor to nitrogen fertilizers. However, ammonia also has a relatively high bulk energy density compared to hydrogen and existing battery chemical processes, making it an attractive energy carrier.
Technological progress in recent years has brought new possibilities for the use of ammonia in the transport sector. These include more efficient methods of cracking ammonia to produce hydrogen for use in fuel cells or internal combustion engines; propulsion systems optimized for direct ammonia application; or combined approaches, which may involve mixing ammonia or hydrogen with conventional fuels.
At Amogy, we have developed a compact, highly efficient reactor that splits ammonia and uses hydrogen to generate energy through a fuel cell. The design utilizes the excellent physical properties of liquid ammonia to transfer the performance benefits of hydrogen away from the source of supply, and does so at lower operating temperatures and higher efficiencies than alternative designs.
how safe is it Is it flammable or explosive?
Ammonia is not a flammable or explosive chemical, but it is a toxic substance. Despite its toxicity, this material has been adopted and used in industrial environments for almost a century, providing sufficient experience, infrastructure and protocols for the safe handling of ammonia. The same practice is applied to traffic areas that want to use ammonia as fuel. For example, regulators in the shipping industry (called Classification Societies) have recently announced “Guidelines for Ammonia as a Fuel” to find here. Amogy is committed to strict safety guidelines in the production of its technologies in the future.
However, it should be noted that due to its toxicity, ammonia is not viable for consumer vehicles, and therefore Amogy only focuses on commercial vehicles. We do not expect ammonia to be an active fuel for consumer markets, where it is much more difficult to achieve rigorous safety training and protocol implementation.
What is the source and price of ammonia? Is it price competitive with gasoline and diesel?
In terms of the dollar for energy, ammonia is about twice as high as conventional fuels (such as gasoline or diesel). However, these costs are significantly cheaper than other potential alternative fuels, such as hydrogen. Today, ammonia is produced from natural gas and there are a large number of “blue” and “green” ammonia projects that have been announced for ammonia production in a more sustainable way as technology progresses and demand increases due to the adoption of zero-emission technologies such as Amogy .
We expect the cost of “green” ammonia to be comparable to diesel by 2035, or sooner if carbon taxes are enacted by then.
Is it safe to store and handle?
Ammonia is already a globally traded commodity, with 20 million tonnes of the chemical shipped between almost 200 ports a year. The presence of existing transport and storage infrastructure provides a prepared basis for the future value chain of carbon-free fuels in shipping. Ammonia also offers greater prospects for scalability than alternatives, such as methanol and biofuels, where CO2 reductions and sustainable biomass supplies are barriers to widespread use.
Does a conventional gas or diesel tractor have to be converted to ammonia? If so, what is the process and cost?
Yes, the tractor had to be converted to a fully electric diesel drive so that the ammonia-produced electricity could power the tractor directly. Although it can be difficult or expensive to equip diesel vehicles as electric vehicles, the growing development and expansion of electric vehicles means that the automotive industry already has the capacity and knowledge to design and manufacture electric powertrains that could be easily driven by ammonia.
Does the operation of a conventional ammonia tractor require special maintenance or repairs? Does it affect the life of the tractor?
The conventional tractor model equipped with Amogy technology will not require extra, but different types of maintenance due to very different internal structures. However, we do not expect this to affect the overall life of the tractor. The durability of the Amogy system is limited primarily by the built-in fuel cell, which represented a market life comparable in the automotive industry.
Is there a guarantee for a technology that allows a gas or diesel tractor to be converted to ammonia?
This is really not the case here, as our technology is currently in the prototype phase.
How long can you run an ammonia tractor before it needs refilling?
Under mild operating conditions, this tractor will be equipped with an Amogy power system in operation for 6+ hours per filling. The range per refill is about half that of diesel, but it is about 3 times denser energy than a hydrogen-powered system and 5 times denser energy than batteries. These are key competitors when it comes to zero-emission transport. In addition, refilling liquid ammonia is another key difference in that it is a liquid-based charge, similar to what we would normally do at a gas station that takes less than 5 minutes, while hydrogen / battery systems require 30 minutes (hydrogen) to couple of minutes. clock (battery) charging.
When could your technology be commercially available?
We expect the deployment of the commercial product Amogy in the years 2024 – 2025 in order to apply this technology in the maritime sector. The maritime sector has already started drafting guidelines on the use of ammonia as a fuel and supporting pilot projects in this area to comply with forthcoming regulations on emissions from shipping.
However, the timeline towards commercialization can be accelerated through collaboration with OEMs and other suppliers.
How could this work with large cargo ships and tractor trailers?
As the goal of countries around the world is to achieve zero net emissions by the middle of the century, the success of global decarbonisation efforts depends on technological developments in the transport industry. Passenger and freight transport together account for more than one third of global CO2 emissions from the final consumption sectors. The progress made so far in reducing emissions has focused mainly on the electrification of the passenger car segment. However, it has proved much more difficult to decarbonise other forms of transport – especially long-distance trucking, locomotives, aviation and shipping.
To ensure compliance with global emissions targets, there is a broad consensus that the shipping industry needs to move to a new set of fuels and propulsion technologies. The suitability of individual carbon-free technologies depends on the size and operating profile of the vessel. For small and medium-sized vessels that regularly undertake short voyages, such as passenger ferries, the energy density requirements for fuels and propulsion systems are relatively mild. In contrast, energy density is a critical performance indicator for large ocean-going vessels, such as container ships, bulk carriers and oil and chemical tankers. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, these categories of vessels account for 85% of net greenhouse gas emissions in the shipping sector.
In addition to its high energy density and controllable boiling point, ammonia has several key advantages that make it a suitable choice for ocean-going and smaller ships. For example, it is already a commodity traded worldwide, with 20 million tonnes3 of this chemical being shipped between almost 200 ports each year. The presence of existing transport and storage infrastructure provides a prepared basis for the future value chain of carbon-free fuels in shipping. Ammonia also offers greater prospects for scalability than alternatives, such as methanol and biofuels, where CO2 reductions and sustainable biomass supplies are barriers to widespread use.
Reducing carbon emissions from the freight sector requires a shift from diesel engines to alternative fuel and powertrain technologies. As in the shipping industry, the optimal choice of technology depends on the size and weight of the vehicle and its intended purpose and expected driving profile. Vehicles that travel short distances in restricted areas are more accessible to battery power. City vans and city buses are exemplary, as both types of vehicles can be charged at predetermined stations along their routes. However, for long-haul heavy trucks, the weight of electric batteries and the associated charging times can be a significant limitation. This scenario provides an opportunity for fuel cell propulsion systems as a potential solution.
Fuel cells convert hydrogen into electricity to power electric powertrains. As a result, fuel cell trucks share many of the benefits of battery-powered electrical systems without creating additional weight or longer refueling time. In addition, fuel cell trucks perform better than battery-powered vehicles in adverse weather conditions.
Video credit: Anna Andersen
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