OPINION | ‘This is why Envision is investing in green hydrogen-based ammonia — and why others should too’
Renewable NH3 is the ‘revolutionary steam engine of our generation’, argues the green tech giant's CEO, Lei Zhang
Amid daily stories about wildfires, droughts, floods, and ominous climate change progress reports, one unlikely hero for catalysing industrial decarbonisation is emerging: ammonia.
“Ammonia” tends to conjure images of fertilisers or cleaning supplies, not revolutionising energy systems. But with ammonia’s enormous impact on global emissions, it is essential for global leaders to understand its importance and how they can act to spur supply and catalyse its adoption.
The latest hydrogen production projections presented by BloombergNEF research, produced in partnership with the Bloomberg New Economy Climate Technology Coalition—an initiative I co-founded— elucidates how clean ammonia can certainly pave the way for industrial decarbonisation and what the implications are for global industries and the environment.
Large-scale progress will require policy interventions and government initiatives. While commercial actions can create demand, without long-term, binding offtake agreements, ambitious plans for capacity expansion are at risk.
From offering subsidies for low-carbon ammonia production to incentivising decarbonisation technologies like precision agriculture, government incentives can run concurrently, ensuring that while we promote low-carbon alternatives, we also prevent unintended consequences like fertiliser overuse.
Green hydrogen and thus green ammonia face far fewer challenges and barriers than other promising climate-critical technologies. We know how to make clean hydrogen -- we do it all the time. It’s just, for the most part, more expensive to produce green ammonia than blue or grey right now, but it won’t stay that way.
With green hydrogen as a critical part of the new renewable energy system, industries will be revolutionised. I’d argue it is the steam engine of our generation.
“But it’s too expensive”
Climate catastrophe that leads to panicked migration, supply chain disaster, and existential business disruptions – that’s going to be irreversible, not to mention costly.
Making green ammonia simply requires clean electricity, the advancement of which behooves all humanity and all corporations in the medium and long term.
Envision can now produce green ammonia at the same cost as grey ammonia, because we've created a reliable, efficient renewable energy system. We directly connect wind energy with an electrolyser, bringing the wind energy cost down to around 3 cents. We’re building a 1.52 million-tonnes-per-year green ammonia facility because it’ll be cost competitive. We’re not doing charity; we’re seizing enormous opportunity.
“But I don’t make fertilisers”
Beyond fertilisers, ammonia has industrial applications ranging from chemical manufacturing to explosives, plastics, and shipping. The versatility of this molecule, combined with its potential as a low-carbon alternative, opens doors to a myriad of possibilities.
There is potential for ammonia to play a significant role in gas power plants and even to act as a fuel in maritime shipping. The interest in these sectors is already apparent: we are planning to bring online 3.6 million tonnes of annual green hydrogen production capacity by 2035, specifically for green ammonia production.
“But I’ll lose competitiveness among my peers”
What company has thrived in the long term by waiting to see what everyone else does? Early adopters, first movers, innovators, pioneers like offtake customers can shape the future of their own industry, simply by seeing the landscape and opportunity through an ambitious perspective.
There are players such as Keppel Infrastructure in Singapore, who have been shaping the sector, thereby helping it explore a path to further price reduction.
This isn't just about an industrial chemical. It's about a pivot in our energy systems, an embrace of new possibilities, and a step toward a more sustainable future. With strategic interventions, ammonia might just become the unsung hero of the clean energy revolution.