Ammonia-methane power generation for CO₂ mitigation in steelwork processes

This research project is available as part of the EPSRC National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) Doctoral Training Partnership. Up to nine studentships will be awarded to the best applicants.

Future energy systems require effective, affordable methods for energy storage. Chemical storage of energy is one option being considered via hydrogen or carbon-neutral hydrogen derivatives. One such example is ammonia, which has been identified as a sustainable fuel for mobile and remote applications.

Similar to synthesised hydrogen, ammonia is a product that can be obtained either from fossil fuels, biomass or other renewable sources such as wind and tidal, where excessive electrical supply can be converted to chemical storage. Some advantages of ammonia over hydrogen are its lower cost per unit of stored energy, higher volumetric energy density, easier production, handling and distribution, and better commercial viability.

Commercially, a reliable and proven infrastructure already exists for ammonia storage and distribution. However, a viable energy system based on ammonia faces the problem of large utility-scale power production, since most developments to date have focused on improving small- to medium-scale devices such as reciprocating engines.

Power output from such units is relatively modest, typically in the range of 0.1 – 1 MW. Thus, further research and development is needed to develop systems capable of delivering power outputs in the range of >5MWs.
Therefore, gas turbines (GT) are potential candidates for the use of the resource in an efficient way that will enable commissioning of combined cycles to power communities around Europe and internationally while serving as sources of heat and chemical storage.

Consequently, development of these systems will bring to the market a safer, zero carbon fuel that can be used for multiple purposes, thus decentralizing power generation and increasing sustainability in the communities of the future whilst positioning the developing and manufacturing companies as global leaders of a new generation of energy devices.

In parallel, the steel industry, one of the largest emitters of CO2 in the world, not only requires large quantities of energy to produce its products, but also generates vast amounts of by-product gases amongst which ammonia is found. Large steel making facilities can produce more than 1 T/h of the chemical in their large blast furnaces. Ammonia ends up flared without any further recovery.

Thus, this work seeks to establish a new NH3/CH4 cycle and a laboratory-based device for the recovery and use of ammonia produced during the steel-making process in the blast furnaces located at Port Talbot, Wales. Ammonia will be stored and used for GT power generation or warming up of the furnaces after maintenance periods, while supporting CO2 scrubbing, thus decreasing emissions, generating high peak power and minimizing energy bills.

For power generation and heating up ammonia will be co-fired with methane in a bespoke swirl burner to produce peak energy for other auxiliary processes. Some of the remaining ammonia will be used to scrub CO2 from the power/heating process. Ammonia/CO2 blends will be assessed at different temperatures to ensure efficient reaction with CO2, thus serving as a catalytic promotor to minimize emissions whilst providing energy storage for high energy peak periods or high price methane seasons.

It is expected that you will expand your knowledge on thermodynamics while creating a new power cycle via advanced software (Aspen and CHEMKIN Pro). You will also learn how to perform advanced combustion tests with innovative blends and measuring techniques (PLIF NH2, OH Chemiluminescence, PMT Thermoacoustics). You will also use novel models (low-order networks) to determine the complex stability of such flames.

Interdisciplinarity between chemistry and engineering will ensure that you will also develop materials capable of performing the separation of NH3 in the flue gases with all the know-how required for such a task. Finally, since the work will be performed with TATA on the basis of current data, this will ensure the development of a industrially relevant concept.


Augustin Valera-Modena

Dr Agustin Valera-Medina

Senior Lecturer - Teaching and Research

+44 (0)29 2087 5948

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