Air Products needs special exemptions on ammonia-to-hydrogen terminals linked to 2.2GW Neom megaproject




US industrial gases firm Air Products aims to bring three European ammonia terminals on line by the start of 2027, in order to import green NH3 from the 2.2GW Neom complex it is co-developing in Saudi Arabia and crack it back to hydrogen.


But despite these projects being “shovel-ready” and the Neom complex already under construction, no final investment decision (FID) on the terminals will be made without a regulatory exemption or permitting in place, a company executive told Hydrogen Insight yesterday.


“The regulatory exemption is absolutely critical for us to go ahead,” said Caroline Stancell, the general manager for hydrogen mobility in Europe and Africa at Air Products, on the sidelines of the Reuters Hydrogen 2024 conference in Amsterdam.

This exemption relates to the EU’s upcoming hydrogen and decarbonised gas markets package, which requires a guarantee of third-party access for H2 infrastructure such as ammonia terminals or cracking units if connected to a planned European network of hydrogen pipelines.

However, developers have argued that this regulation would prevent them from selling long-term contracts to book capacity — and without a secure revenue stream, this infrastructure cannot be financed.


The hydrogen and decarbonised gas markets package therefore includes a loophole allowing case-by-case exemptions for critical infrastructure, such as ammonia terminals, that would otherwise be unable to take FID.


Stancell told Hydrogen Insight that Air Products was seeking an “identical exemption” given to start-up TES for its synthetic methane terminal in Germany.


TES recently received a 20-year exemption from third-party access and tariff regulations from the German regulator BNetzA, in order to market up to 90% of the capacity at its proposed Wilhelmshaven Green Energy Hub on a long-term basis and at pre-determined rates.


Three-horse race for permitting


However, Air Products’ plans for the three terminals — one based in Hamburg, one in Rotterdam, and one at the British port of Immingham — could also depend on navigating three very different permitting systems per country.


Stancell suggested to Hydrogen Insight that the UK was the most time-intensive of the three permitting processes, with “loads of work upfront”.


“There’s meetings all of this week and all of next week on that permit, it has a very prescribed timescale that it’s going through,” she said.


“The Dutch permitting process is a little bit less regimented,” Stancell added, noting that the German system “is kind of a cross between the two”.


But because all three run independently, the timelines for each terminal may not align perfectly.


Stancell was unable to comment on exactly when Air Products expects to take final investment decisions in order for the three terminals to be ready from the end of 2026 to receive volumes exported from the Neom project.


“It’s unknown because it depends on when we are able to secure the right legislatory exemptions as well as the permitting,” she said.


Source: HydrogenInsight


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