What is the future for green ammonia?

Global production of ammonia has increased steadily over the past decade, with a 21.6% increase in production from 2009 to 2020. Production in 2020, stood at 152.4Mt. Over 80% of the world’s ammonia production is used in the production for fertiliser, in the form of salts such as ammonium phosphate, and ammonium sulphate.

The remainder sees a variety of uses, including as feedstock for the production of other nitrogen compounds, such as explosives. The recent surge in price in natural gas as a result of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, in addition to a continuing Chinese export restriction on the export of di-ammonium phosphate, likely means an increase in ammonia and ammonia-derived products in 2022.

The predominant mode of ammonia production is via the Haber-Bosch process, which uses synthesis gas to supply the hydrogen that reacts with atmospheric nitrogen to form ammonia. Synthesis gas for the Haber-Bosch process is usually obtained through the steam reforming of natural gas. As natural gas has historically been an indispensable factor in the production of ammonia, its price has had a strong impact on the prevailing ammonia price. It is estimated that 3-5% of natural gas production is used in the production of ammonia.

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"Around 3-5% of global natural gas production is used in the production of ammonia."

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Ammonia April 2022
Gas Price Forecasts Drive Fertiliser Prices

Higher natural gas and coal prices in the long-term could mean a shortage of ammonia and urea as prices reach levels high enough to cause shutdowns in plants in Europe. While the world is not likely to see a height of the JKM’s US$48/MMBtu for gas again any time soon as the spectre of the most recent energy crisis is going to loom for some time.

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