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Magazine5 Min

Ammonia – A green energy carrier for the Paul Wurth EASyMelt

An additional approach for low CO2 ironmaking

Hydrogen will remain in short supply in the coming years. Ammonia could be a cost-effective addition when it comes to the transport and storage of green energy specifically in combination with the Paul Wurth EASyMelt.

Without green energy, there can be no green steel. However, the availability of cost-effective green energy production, be it hydrogen or electric power, varies widely across different regions, and transportation and storage options present substantial difficulties. To navigate these challenges, utilizing ammonia as a hydrogen carrier is also a viable solution for steel production. Given that ammonia is the chemical industry’s second-largest product by volume manufactured, its handling, storage, and transportation methods are reliable and well-established. 

Advantages of ammonia

Transporting energy in the form of ammonia is a compelling one thanks to its characteristics, namely its higher energy density than hydrogen and its easily attainable liquefaction pressure and temperature, reducing the costs associated with its containment and transportation. Having a cost-effective carrier for long-distance energy transport and storage is key for countries like Germany, which may face limitations in domestic energy production or cost competitiveness and which will require importing energy in an economic way. In other words, the ammonia approach allows customers to circumvent geographical and economic constraints, accessing low-cost energy from afar.

Ammonia offers more advantages:

  • Availability: Ammonia is one of the most widely produced chemicals globally, for various industrial applications, particularly in agriculture to make fertilizers.
  • Energy density: While ammonia has a higher energy density compared to hydrogen by volume, it has a lower energy density by weight. This means that a smaller volume of ammonia can provide a similar amount of energy as hydrogen, making it more practical for transportation and storage.
  • Reducing potential: When heated, ammonia can decompose into nitrogen and hydrogen gas, a mixture ideally suited to act as a reducing agent in steelmaking processes. This decomposition reaction can occur at temperatures easily achievable in a steel plant by using steelmaking offgases.
  • Environmental considerations: Ammonia production can be decoupled from fossil fuel sources by using renewable energy sources for hydrogen production and subsequently converting it into ammonia.

In summary, while hydrogen has been considered as the straightforward and logic reducing agent in steelmaking processes, ammonia presents a compelling alternative due to its cost efficiency for transport and storage, established handling characteristics, and potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


Ammonia use in the Paul Wurth EASyMelt

The Paul Wurth EASyMelt is our answer to overcoming the market limitations in direct reduction technology. It is resource-flexible, considerably cheaper, and offers a step-by-step approach to reducing emissions. In particular, the EASyMelt boasts remarkable potential for using ammonia as a reducing agent. Some commonly discussed disadvantages of ammonia are either irrelevant or can even be turned into advantages with the EASyMelt. 

  • Heating value: While it is true that ammonia possesses a lower heating value compared to conventional fuels (such as H2, NG), the numbers alone do not show the whole picture. The logistical benefits of transporting ammonia over liquid hydrogen are undeniable, with reduced leakage risks and cooling requirements providing the basis for a more efficient and cost-effective solution.
  • (Un)proven technologies: The technology behind ammonia cracking is tried and tested on a small scale for metal annealing and on a large scale for deuterium regeneration in nuclear plants. To optimize efficiency levels for our unique requirements, we are ready to shape the industry using ammonia.
  • Efficiency: In the case of our Paul Wurth Blue Blast Furnace or EASyMelt, we bypass the need for the costly process of hydrogen separation and purification. Instead, we simply inject the mixture of hot hydrogen and nitrogen from the ammonia cracker into the EASyMelt This highly efficient configuration allows for > 90% of the energy supplied to the cracker to be looped back into the EASyMelt.
  • Toxicity: Ammonia is the second most produced chemical worldwide. Accidents do happen, but only when safety procedures based on a century of experience are not respected.

Ammonia can serve as a significant interim resource where there is a lack of available green hydrogen. Integrating ammonia as a reducing agent within the EASyMelt process minimizes ammonia’s drawbacks and offers a promising approach for green steel. Within the innovative environment of EASyMelt, the constraints associated with ammonia are mitigated, unveiling new possibilities for eco-friendly steel production. Let us collectively exploit ammonia’s potential to forge a more sustainable and brighter future.  

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