Skip to content

Green Ammonia in the carbon-free energy mix

At long last: the push to decarbonise industries worldwide is gaining momentum, especially for hard-to-abate (ie difficult-to-go-green) sectors like transport and power generation.

It took our world long enough to move from scientific insight to political and societal acknowledgment. Now, finally, we are working to agree and implement practical solutions.

The UN climate conferences of the past few years have been key drivers of progress and created regulatory frameworks for change. I hope that COP28 will take this to the next level and lead to tangible and impactful action. There is no other way. To contain the worst of climate change, we must decarbonise the world’s economies as fast as possible and at every level. 

Across all industries, this energy transition requires innovation, investments, planning, resources, and time. And we need to acknowledge that it will be impossible to go carbon neutral everywhere, for everything, all at once. 

Eight billion people live on our planet. Energy is required to feed and heat them, to keep them safe and in work. There simply is no one-size-fits-all solution that meets the sustainable energy needs of them all. The decarbonisation of every sector and every country will have to happen at speeds and using energy sources tailored to their distinct needs and infrastructure. 

It may sound like a contradiction, but for the sake of a speedy energy transition, we will also have to make carbon compromises. Take the electrification of the world’s energy infrastructure: it’s a shift that will take at least a couple of decades – whether that’s for industrial power generation or household heating, for trucks or passenger cars, for home cooking or delivering power to remote locations. Many power plants, for instance, will have to rely on carbon-free fuels like hydrogen and ammonia, and the greener these can be sourced, the better. 

Ammonia as a carbon-free fuel is especially promising because it is well understood, can be produced sustainably, and is technologically less challenging to store and transport than other methodologies such as liquid hydrogen or methylcyclohexane (MCH). It’s even possible to retrofit some of the existing energy infrastructure to use ammonia as an energy source.

COP28 will undoubtedly focus minds to identify the right mix of decarbonising energy sources. Some groundwork is being done already, for example in important forums like this year’s G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, and I’m very pleased that green ammonia as a carrier of energy is gaining the support it deserves. Ammonia is not only an excellent carrier of hydrogen but can also be used as a carbon-free energy source itself. Green ammonia will have a vital role to play as an accelerator of the energy transition. 

The communique of G7 energy ministers clearly recognised the importance of renewable hydrogen and ammonia as “effective emission reduction tools to advance decarbonization across sectors and industries, notably in hard-to-abate sectors in industry and transportation.” 

Renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and water will not meet all of humanity’s energy needs for decades to come. And yet, our world reaffirmed its commitment to achieving the target of having a fully or at least predominantly decarbonised power sector by 2035. In other words, we need a thermal power generation infrastructure that is fully aligned with the 1.5°C pathway. As the G7 ministers highlighted, green ammonia can play an important role in achieving this. The momentum achieved at the G7 must now be carried into COP28, so that industry and investors alike can make the necessary energy investment decisions with confidence and certainty.

Japan is leading by example, assigning green ammonia an important role in “GX”, its plan for the country’s green energy transformation. The European Commission for its part has recognised that green ammonia has the potential to play a role in the EU’s energy transition. Several European countries are already planning to make green ammonia part of their energy mix. 

Let’s make no mistake, the energy transition takes time. Economies have to invest and build the infrastructure they need for a balanced shift to a carbon-free energy sector. As the G7 noted: if we want hydrogen and ammonia to help us decarbonise our world, we must “develop a rule-based, transparent global market and supply chains based on reliable international standards and certification schemes while adhering to environmental and social standards.”

To contain climate change, we must reach a net-zero world by 2050 at the very latest. That means we have to make the sustainable transition to zero-carbon fuels as soon as possible. The standards have to be agreed now, the investment decisions cannot be delayed any longer. Green ammonia is the perfect energy source to work in tandem with renewable energies to unlock the energy transition for sectors and use cases that wind, solar and hydropower simply cannot reach.  

Back to top