Storage of Ammonia For Energy (SAFE) - AGT Pilot

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Sch of Engineering

Abstract

A hydrogen economy has been the focus of researchers and developers over the decades. However, the complexity of moving and storing hydrogen has always been a major obstacle to deploy the concept. Therefore, other materials can be employed to improve handling whilst reducing cost over long distances and long periods. Ammonia, a highly hydrogenated molecule, can be used to store and distribute hydrogen easily, as the molecule has been employed for more than 120 years for fertilizer purposes. Being a carbon-free chemical, ammonia (NH3) has the potential to support a hydrogen transition thus decarbonising transport, power and industries.

However, the complexity of using ammonia for power generation lays on the appropriate use of the chemical to reach high power outputs combined with currently low efficiencies that bring up overall costs. This complex scenario is also linked to the production of combustion profiles that tend to be highly polluting (with high NOx emissions and slipped unburned ammonia). There is no technology capable of using ammonia whilst producing both low emissions and high efficiencies in large power generation devices, thus efficiently enabling the recovery of hydrogen and reconversion of stranded, green energy that can be fed back to the grid. Tackling these problems can resolve one of the most important barriers in the use of such a molecule and storage of renewable energies. Countries such as Japan have engaged in ambitious programs to resolve these issues, aiming for large power units to run on ammonia by 2030. Thus, European counterparts, led by UK innovation, need also to engage in these technological advancements to fully unlock a hydrogen, cost-effective economy.

Therefore, this project seeks to establish fundamental results that will ensure the development of an improved combustor for the use of ammonia to produce low NOx emissions combined with low ammonia slip. Hydrogen production, which will be generated through the combustion process of NH3, will also serve to increase power outputs, thus enabling the production of large power in compact systems, raising efficiency and decreasing overall cost. Improvement techniques will be assessed in currently deployed systems (Siemens gas turbines) to determine the feasibility of implementation in these devices, cutting both costs and times for units that can be employed to use ammonia as fuel in the near future. The novel combustion system proposed will be also integrated into a new ammonia micro gas turbine. The system will be combined with novel thermodynamic principles that will lead into a trigeneration cycle (cooling, power and heat) to unlock all the potential benefits of ammonia, whilst raising even more the efficiency of the system, thus creating a unique, competitive technology that can be implemented to support the hydrogen transition with negligible carbon footprint and environmental penalties.

The project will be supported by companies of international reputation (Siemens, Yara, National Instruments) and UK-European innovation enterprises looking for new areas of development (Hieta, Scitek, CoolDynamics) with the creation of unique, innovative products needed for the implementation of ammonia combustion systems and humidified ammonia-hydrogen cycles. Moreover, the outcome of the project will be ensured via Open Access documentation with bespoke numerical and experimental results that will be supplemented by series of high impact publications and seminars, thus increasing awareness of the importance of using ammonia as part of the energy mix of the following decades, having the UK as core of these developments.

Planned Impact

The proposed project will ensure that ammonia combustion in gas turbines is efficiently achieved for its use in power generation, supporting the transition to a hydrogen economy. The use of ammonia, a highly flexible hydrogen carrier, will ensure that hydrogen is stored and deployed cost-effectively. Therefore, the project will demonstrate the use of the chemical whilst setting up direct impacts on the use of future distribution networks and large power generators through the integration of renewable systems and easy-handling chemical storage facilities.
Initially, the project will spur the interest on ammonia as an energy carrier and an "X-power" enabler, attracting large companies and consortia to the development of large-scale AGTs that will backup production of power in the near future (~10 years). The statement is based on current trajectories of Japanese groups that pursue the development of large power units (>100MW) running on ammonia by 2030. Bearing this in mind, progression in Europe needs to match these developments to ensure technology independence on ammonia power systems. Groups such as the European Turbine Network, Royal Society, BEIS, IEA, etc. have recognised the potential of ammonia as hydrogen enabler, whilst this project intends to position the UK as leader on the topic for the use of the chemical, thus bringing further research and investment to the country in a post-BREXIT era.
In the medium term, small communities might benefit from the creation of efficient cycles that can efficiently recover stranded energy. It is expected that the potential benefits can reach ~21,000 individuals across the British Isles, ensuring flexibility and energy independence to isolated locations. In the long term, the UK will position itself as the hub for ammonia/hydrogen implementation in Europe, attracting investment and setting up the first international infrastructure for large power generation using these chemicals with all its environmental and economic implications.
Industrially, companies such as Siemens and Yara, whose business magnitude is globally recognised, will immediately benefit from the developments of this program, not only for exploration of novel clean technologies but also for the demonstration of the use of a flexible chemical that can be used as a clean fuel. The results will set the foundations to ensure that these companies will follow up the progression of the technology into more robust, larger systems across Europe, with the potential of reaching global markets with technologies developed and demonstrated in the UK. The project sets the foundations for the first European micro pilot plant that fully works on ammonia and that will be established as an icon for ammonia research, enabling that the chemical gains its deserved position in the global energy mix. Other companies, such as Hieta, will benefit from the development of novel concepts and materials for the use of aggressive atmospheres in heat exchanger devices. National Instruments and Scitek will also gain unique expertise on how to integrate complex devices, whilst governmental agencies and international organizations (i.e. Welsh government, ETN) will include in their R&D plans the use of ammonia as a reliable, cost-effective power vector, championing ammonia across governments whilst reaching other international agencies to spread the word of the benefits of such a molecule.
Finally, the project will serve as the medium for researchers and students (PhD) to expand their research agenda, with a hot topic that gains adepts constantly, as the topic is highly valuable in journals such as Combustion and Flame, FUEL, Int Hydrogen Energy, Applied Energy, etc. Particularly, the research will ensure that PDRAs and students can directly interact with industries and government agencies of high pedigree, combining expertise that will eventually lead to the creation of a specialised centre of excellence in Europe for ammonia studies.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The findings of new radical species in the operability of ammonia-based engines has led to the development of new injection strategies for low emissions. Currently, the results have enable the design of a new burner whose patent has recently been filled. It is expected that during the next reporting period, the system will be evaluated and improved further to reach high operability, low emissions, and reliable power using green, zero-carbon ammonia.
Exploitation Route The results that have been found will be employed in the next reporting period to experimentally validate the numerical findings. If successful, the concept will be used for implementation in medium-size gas turbines (~5MW power) and propulsion systems.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Chemicals,Energy,Environment

 
Description Our findings have been used to write long Reviews for professionals in power, energy and chemical processes. Further, we have also contributed to the production of non-specialist material for policymakers. Current results and previous background have enabled us to support a new policy briefing, sponsored by The Royal Society, that acknowledges all the implications of using ammonia as an energy vector to distribute renewable energy. Further, the use of SAFE as a UK flagship around ammonia has created the leverage to engage with large multi-nationals such as IHI, Siemens and EPRI, all interested in knowing how ammonia can efficiently be used for power generation.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Chemicals,Energy,Environment
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Preparation of Policy Briefing on "Alternative Fuels" - Ammonia section (Cardiff's contribution) - Prof. Chris Llewellyn (Lead)
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
 
Description Cardiff University Scholarship Program
Amount £72,781 (GBP)
Organisation Cardiff University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2020 
End 03/2024
 
Description Special Metals Innovative Materials 
Organisation Special Metals Wiggin Trustees Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Development through SAFE of a new rig capable of receiving high temperature resistant materials that will be evaluated under high ammonia/hydrogen/water atmospheres for their use in new combustors using ammonia as a fuel. We have ensured that the system is flexible enough to evaluate different samples at a great variety of conditions, enabling the proper assessment of these combustion flames in materials such as Inconels, Haynnes, Hastelloys, etc.
Collaborator Contribution Special Metals has agreed to supply us with a great variety of samples (10 at the moment) to evaluate their resistance and performance under high temperature, high corrosive ammonia atmospheres. Similarly, the University of Cambridge has also partnered with us in this venture to determine the impact of these blends and the associated effects of nitrogen/hydrogen embrittlement, with the aims of acknowledging the phenomena and potentially create a new material capable of withstanding these atmospheres. The works will lead to a new EPSRC proposal which will include the patenting of a new material for ammonia/hydrogen/humidified atmospheres.
Impact Initial samples of various materials. It is expected that results are evaluated with our partner for a high impact publication, and the preparation of a large EPSRC/InnovateUK proposal for development of high resistant combustor materials. Under these grounds, it is envisaged a confidentiality agreement in the following months.
Start Year 2021
 
Description Special Metals Innovative Materials 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Development through SAFE of a new rig capable of receiving high temperature resistant materials that will be evaluated under high ammonia/hydrogen/water atmospheres for their use in new combustors using ammonia as a fuel. We have ensured that the system is flexible enough to evaluate different samples at a great variety of conditions, enabling the proper assessment of these combustion flames in materials such as Inconels, Haynnes, Hastelloys, etc.
Collaborator Contribution Special Metals has agreed to supply us with a great variety of samples (10 at the moment) to evaluate their resistance and performance under high temperature, high corrosive ammonia atmospheres. Similarly, the University of Cambridge has also partnered with us in this venture to determine the impact of these blends and the associated effects of nitrogen/hydrogen embrittlement, with the aims of acknowledging the phenomena and potentially create a new material capable of withstanding these atmospheres. The works will lead to a new EPSRC proposal which will include the patenting of a new material for ammonia/hydrogen/humidified atmospheres.
Impact Initial samples of various materials. It is expected that results are evaluated with our partner for a high impact publication, and the preparation of a large EPSRC/InnovateUK proposal for development of high resistant combustor materials. Under these grounds, it is envisaged a confidentiality agreement in the following months.
Start Year 2021
 
Description Tohoku University and AIST (Japan) collaboration 
Organisation National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology
Country Japan 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Collaboration with Japan to develop new reaction models for the use of ammonia/hydrogen blends. The collaboration has led to the first "Young Researchers of Energy in Ammonia (YREA)" Conference sponsored by SAFE. This initiative has opened new avenues for funding. One of them relates to a recent application that Tohoku University is leading to receive Miss Marina Kovaleva, PhD candidate working in SAFE, to spend a short secondment (3 months) conducting high pressure, turbulent analyses that will be used for correlation of parameters in our CFD models.
Collaborator Contribution Tohoku University and AIST have invited us to contribute to several proposals that they are presenting to the Japanese Government, so Cardiff University can actively collaborate in their research. A medium-size proposal (£150,000 proposal, out of which Cardiff would receive £67,000, April 2020) was put forward to the Japanese Scientific Council for evaluation. Unfortunately, the proposal was unsuccessful. However, we are still in active talks with Tohoku and AIST to pursue other funding streams. A recent application (worth £6,000, Jan 2021) was submitted for the exchange of students. Further, we have also engaged with several industrial companies such as IHI (i.e. major power and engine propulsion developer in Asia) via collaboration with Tohoku University and AIST. Their support has led to recent conversations between the Welsh Government, BEIS and IHI Green Ammonia Consortium to seek avenues to sponsor large industrial ventures between both countries.
Impact Dissemination of the topic of Ammonia as an Energy vector via the conference YREA. It is expected that 20 students will take place in this edition, with another 100 to join us from different universities across the world in a second edition expected at the beginning of 2022. Further, the collaboration has led to recent talks between the Welsh Government, BEIS and the Green Ammonia Consortium, conversations that are expected to lead to new funding avenues across both countries to tackle the most concerning barriers in the use of ammonia and/or hydrogen. Finally, the collaboration has permitted the application of new funds sponsored by the Japanese government. It is expected that Cardiff will also include AIST/Tohoku in new EPSRC proposals for the development of new technologies with patentable potential.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Tohoku University and AIST (Japan) collaboration 
Organisation Tohoku University
Country Japan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaboration with Japan to develop new reaction models for the use of ammonia/hydrogen blends. The collaboration has led to the first "Young Researchers of Energy in Ammonia (YREA)" Conference sponsored by SAFE. This initiative has opened new avenues for funding. One of them relates to a recent application that Tohoku University is leading to receive Miss Marina Kovaleva, PhD candidate working in SAFE, to spend a short secondment (3 months) conducting high pressure, turbulent analyses that will be used for correlation of parameters in our CFD models.
Collaborator Contribution Tohoku University and AIST have invited us to contribute to several proposals that they are presenting to the Japanese Government, so Cardiff University can actively collaborate in their research. A medium-size proposal (£150,000 proposal, out of which Cardiff would receive £67,000, April 2020) was put forward to the Japanese Scientific Council for evaluation. Unfortunately, the proposal was unsuccessful. However, we are still in active talks with Tohoku and AIST to pursue other funding streams. A recent application (worth £6,000, Jan 2021) was submitted for the exchange of students. Further, we have also engaged with several industrial companies such as IHI (i.e. major power and engine propulsion developer in Asia) via collaboration with Tohoku University and AIST. Their support has led to recent conversations between the Welsh Government, BEIS and IHI Green Ammonia Consortium to seek avenues to sponsor large industrial ventures between both countries.
Impact Dissemination of the topic of Ammonia as an Energy vector via the conference YREA. It is expected that 20 students will take place in this edition, with another 100 to join us from different universities across the world in a second edition expected at the beginning of 2022. Further, the collaboration has led to recent talks between the Welsh Government, BEIS and the Green Ammonia Consortium, conversations that are expected to lead to new funding avenues across both countries to tackle the most concerning barriers in the use of ammonia and/or hydrogen. Finally, the collaboration has permitted the application of new funds sponsored by the Japanese government. It is expected that Cardiff will also include AIST/Tohoku in new EPSRC proposals for the development of new technologies with patentable potential.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Advances Wales: Research to unlock the power of ammonia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Publication in Advances Wales about the work we are conducting on ammonia/hydrogen research for gas turbines. The publication led to questions from some Assembly Members about our contributions to the transition to an "ammonia economy" in Wales and the UK.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://businesswales.gov.wales/innovation/sites/innovation/files/documents/Issue%2094_0.pdf
 
Description Ammonia Energy Association Chairing Activities 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact SAFE has enabled us to be recognized in the use of ammonia, being invited to chair activities to promote our know-how on combustion and emissions in ammonia fuelled systems by the Ammonia Energy Association (AEA). The work has enabled the dissemination of activities to some of the most active industrial developers of these technologies. The works have led to the recognition of gaps in the overall understanding of the concept, thus setting up the foundations to start working on an International White Paper that will reach politicians and policymakers around the globe. The initial, immediate audience, comprised of AEA members, will be 200 strong international industrial companies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
 
Description Ammonia Energy Association Newsletter 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Ammonia Energy Association (AEA) wrote a dedicated blog to the SAFE program. The blog illustrates the details of the project, funding, and support given by EPSRC to tackle the most challenging aspects of using ammonia as an energy vector. The blog led to many requests from industries working on ammonia technologies, which have led to the preparation of several ammonia-based proposals for the use of the chemical at medium/large scales.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.ammoniaenergy.org/articles/cardiff-university-launches-ammonia-gas-turbine-project/
 
Description Bank of America - Investors Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Invited seminar for the Bank of America's investors. Current dissemination activities via safeammonia.com and other platforms led to engagement with the Bank of America, Chemical Research Division. Several of their investors are currently interested in investing on new ammonia technologies, therefore inviting us to provide an expert talk to more than 70 representatives from all across the world. The event led to many questions about economics, technological development, paths to the future, and commercialization. We have been invited to a new Seminar for "Zero-carbon technologies" sponsored by the Bank of America in early March 2021.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Low Carbon Summer School 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invitation to deliver a long Seminar (1.5 hrs) about ammonia technologies and the ammonia economy. The Seminar, part of the Low Carbon Summer School, was sponsored by Jiao Tong Shangai with the participation of more than 150 postgraduate students and professionals in the use of clean technologies. As a result of the seminar, many students (especially from China and India) have contacted our group to join a PhD/Postdoctorate program for the use of ammonia/hydrogen in gas turbines and marine engines.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Mexican Society of Mechanical Engineers (SOMIM) Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invitation to deliver a long seminar (1.5 hrs) about the use of ammonia and hydrogen blends for their use in gas turbines and propulsion systems. SOMIM, the inviting body, is the major organization of Mechanical Engineers in Mexico. Their interest in ammonia led to a seminar that attracted more than 120 attendees, many from top Mexican universities (i.e. UNAM, UNAL, Politecnico, etc.), many other professionals from various countries (India, Iran, Iraq, Spain, UK, etc.). The outcome is that many universities in Mexico have contacted us to start working on joint research programs related to the subject.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description YREA Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The 1st Young Researchers in Energy from Ammonia (YREA) conference. The edition will bring postgraduate students working on ammonia for energy from Cardiff University, KAUST and Tohoku University. The conference, sponsored by SAFE and led by Cardiff, will be the first of its type worldwide. It is envisaged that the next edition (2022) will attract more than 60-100 students from all the world. The outcomes will serve to spread the developments done at Cardiff, and position the UK as key player in the subject.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description safeammonia.com - Website, Linkedin, Instagram 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The website, safeammonia.com, has been created to disseminate all our activities, engagement and important news product of the SAFE program. The audience at the moment has reached more than 100 people, and now with a new addition via Linkedin, the dissemination has reached professional bodies and ammonia industrials interested in the subject. From that engagement, we have received several enquiries to evaluate projects, review proposals and participate as partners in other funding activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.safeammonia.com/