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Achieving net zero using ammonia

5 July 2023

From left to right: Dr. Syed Mashruk and Professor Agustin Valera-Medina (Cardiff University), James Rudman and Muhammad Taufiq (Flogas) and Ross Docherty (Protech)

A first of its kind ammonia boiler that will help businesses and industries to meet their net zero targets is being developed as part of a new £3.4m research project.

The two-year project involving academics at Cardiff University’s Net Zero Innovation Institute and leading off-grid energy supplier Flogas Britain will see the production of an ammonia-fuelled boiler capable of meeting the demands of industrial heating while providing a technically viable solution to decarbonisation.

Currently, some 4.5m tonnes of oil is consumed in the off-mains industrial market annually in the UK. These energy intensive processes contribute to emissions of 14.2 metric tonnes of CO2 per year. Decarbonisation of these sites presents a significant and pressing challenge.

Dr Syed Mashruk of the Net Zero Innovation Institute and School of Engineering who will lead the project said: “In a net zero world, the oil used by businesses and industry must be replaced by a fuel that is cost-effective and zero carbon.

Green ammonia is a promising alternative fuel. It can be distributed easily and stored inexpensively, using infrastructure that has been well established in the fertiliser sector. However, technical barriers in the combustion of ammonia have meant that ammonia boilers are not yet available on the market.
Dr Syed Mashruk Research Associate

The research team has already shown that ammonia-fuelled boilers have significant advantages over other low-carbon solutions. They have developed an innovative design for the boiler, overcoming two key challenges associated with ammonia combustion: low flame speed and stability; and increased nitrogen oxide emissions.

The new research will build on that work and over the next two years, the team aim to demonstrate that their design works in an industrial setting.

Dr Mashruk added: “The purpose of our project is to develop ammonia combustion technology that can use green ammonia as a fuel to contribute to net zero targets. Over the course of this project, we will bring to life our conceptual design for a 1 MW ammonia-fed steam boiler, creating a prototype and rigorously testing and improving it.

“At the end of the project, we aim to have a boiler that is fit for commercialisation, and fuelled only by clean ammonia, which Flogas Britain will then supply to customers as an off-grid industrial heating option.”

James Rudman, Business Development Director at Flogas said: “The off-mains industry in the UK is notoriously hard to decarbonise, and a lot of it is still powered by carbon-heavy oil, so finding cleaner, greener alternatives is a significant, pressing challenge.

“Whilst LPG is an excellent transition fuel for oil users, cutting carbon by 20% as well as other polluting emissions – to help off-grid businesses get all the way to net zero, we’re expanding our portfolio of renewables, including a range of green gases.

“Ammonia is a key part of this; we believe it’s a compelling, highly effective renewable option for off-grid industry, and an extremely cost effective one too. Plus, businesses running on LPG now, will be able to switch to ammonia in the future with modification to equipment.”

As part of the study, a new Centre of Excellence on Ammonia Technologies will be created in the Net Zero Innovation Institute, developing the University’s already world-leading ammonia combustion expertise and facilities.

The project, known as Amburn, is funded by the Department for Energy Security & Net Zero as part of the £55m Industrial Fuel Switching Competition, under the £1bn Net Zero Innovation Portfolio and will conclude in early 2025.

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