Quebec Has All Situations For Success To Be Inexperienced Fertilizer Big


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As we take into account how main industries will shift, one of many key questions is what industries by definition are excessive carbon in a single place however will be inexperienced because the pushed snow in one other? And so we come to fertilizer, and never the type that comes from the north finish of south dealing with cattle, however ammonia.

Ammonia fertilizer is essential to our society

I’m at the moment studying Materials World: The Six Uncooked Supplies That Form Trendy Civilization by Ed Conway. Whereas not among the many six supplies – sand, salt, iron, copper, oil and lithium — ammonia options within the guide. Whereas most of us consider it as a family cleaner, if we consider it in any respect, its main use is as a provider of nitrogen to the roots of vegetation.

Nitrogen is a kind of invisible issues that nobody thinks about, much more so than ammonia. It’s odorless. It doesn’t burn. But it surely’s absurdly frequent, making up 78% of our environment. And vegetation want nitrogen. It makes up 1% to five% of the mass of the plant, relying on species. With out nitrogen, vegetation can’t develop. No drawback, proper? All of the vegetation have to do is breath within the nitrogen from the air, which has a lot of it.

Not so quick. Nitrogen within the air is molecular, N2, and the bond requires a lot of power to interrupt, greater than the vegetation can produce. All that nitrogen round them, however it isn’t straight accessible to them. A minimum of, to most of them. There are microbes within the soil which eat sugars exuded by roots of the vegetation and in flip are in a position to suck nitrogen out of the air and make it accessible to the vegetation by their roots. The clover household enhances microbial nitrogen fixing. That’s why fields was once left fallow and planted with clover certainly one of 4 years. And it’s in livestock dung too, therefore the aromatic odor of honey wagons in lots of elements of the world.

However the issue is that these mechanisms present solely a lot nitrogen to the vegetation. As Karsten Temme, co-founder and CEO of Pivot Bio shared with me a few years in the past, the microbes particularly are lazy. If there’s sufficient nitrogen already current, they cease producing it themselves, getting fats and completely happy and multiplying as a substitute with the bounty of plant sugars. Clearly, if a subject is roofed in clover for a season, it’s not coated in wheat. And there are solely so many cattle wandering round to enrapture Gary Larsen’s sense of the absurd.

We used to mine chook guano deposits and different lengthy laid down organic deposits for fertilizer. We nonetheless try this for phosphates and potassium. However the simply extractable sources of fabric that contained nitrogen had been working out 100 years in the past.

Ammonia is comprised of fossil fuels with world warming penalties

Enter Fritz Haber and BASF chemist Carl Bosch. Haber spent years making an attempt to show the nitrogen within the air into nitrogen within the soil, striving to seek out the laboratory situations the place this may work. And he succeeded, at laboratory scales. With the suitable situations of stress and warmth, a nitrogen molecule from the air could possibly be mixed with three hydrogen molecules to create two ammonia molecules, every containing a nitrogen atom and three hydrogen atoms.

Name it expertise readiness stage 4. Chemical big BASF purchased the expertise and introduced Haber together with it, pairing him with Bosch, whose mandate was to scale it as much as industrial manufacturing, expertise readiness stage 9. They usually succeeded.

With out ammonia that we manufacture, all the world’s even semi-arable land could be underneath intensive agriculture with large herds of cattle grazing in every single place to create fertilizer and, not less than per the statistics within the guide, we might solely be capable of assist a few billion individuals. But we’re supporting eight billion individuals apparently effortlessly, with such an abundance of meals that we throw a full third of it, 2.5 billion tons, away yearly.

That is all sensible in fact, and one of many the reason why the world’s inhabitants has grown a lot whereas the variety of individuals ravenous globally continues to say no.

However in fact each silver cloud has a darkish lining. Really, darkish linings. To start out with, the place is the hydrogen coming from? It’s extracted from pure gasoline or coal gasoline by steam reformation, the place water is boiled to create steam utilizing coal or gasoline, then extra pure or coal gasoline is mixed with the steam. The power of the steam is ample to strip the carbon atoms off of the hydrocarbons and produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

The method usually produces eight to 10 instances the mass of carbon dioxide as of hydrogen when pure gasoline is used, and as much as 35 instances as a lot when coal is the supply. And naturally, pure gasoline and coal gasoline are actually methane, with its very excessive world warming potential, and methane leaks, including extra emissions. The quantity I exploit lately is 11 tons of CO2 for each ton of hydrogen from pure gasoline.

The second darkish lining is nitrous oxides. There are a few main ones. NO2 is brought on when something is burned in our nitrogen wealthy environment and causes smog. However for fertilizer, the issue is N2O, generally known as laughing gasoline. It has a really excessive world warming potential, about 273 instances that of carbon dioxide over 100 years, and it stays within the environment for over 100 years.

Ammonia has 2-3 tons of carbon debt per ton of ammonia, 6 tons if it’s comprised of coal gasoline. When used as directed on fields, it leads to 2-3 tons of carbon dioxide equal within the type of laughing gasoline. Nobody is laughing.

The Haber Bosch course of made ammonia fertilizers dust low-cost and plentiful. The mixture meant that any farmer above the extent of subsistence farmers purchased and overused them, resulting in algal blooms and a large world warming hangover.

Ammonia demand will decline however not utterly

Clearly that must be addressed. A part of it’s merely placing a worth on greenhouse gases to make ammonia fertilizer sufficiently costlier that farmers will cease overusing it, as Canada, the EU, China and about 13 US states are doing. One other half is precision agriculture, more and more with spray drones like these manufactured by Hylio, DJI and John Deere, which effectively push a lot smaller volumes of fertilizer straight in among the many vegetation with the identical output. Pivot Bio is promoting a nitrogen-fixing microbe with that nitrogen sensor turned off, so even when there’s a lot of nitrogen within the soil, the microbe retains pumping out extra as a substitute of getting fats and elevating child microbes.

Hydrogen demand through 2100 by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Strategy Inc
Hydrogen demand by 2100 by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Technique Inc

However these are inadequate to displace all ammonia fertilizer. They’re levers, not full replacements. And so, whereas I undertaking a major discount in ammonia fertilizer, it can take time and we’ll nonetheless require ammonia fertilizer in 2100.

So we now have to make inexperienced ammonia. Which means changing the black and grey hydrogen with inexperienced hydrogen. And we now have to do it with as low-cost, agency and low-carbon electrical energy as we are able to in vegetation the place the hydrogen manufacturing is built-in with the Haber Bosch ammonia manufacturing. The hydrogen manufacturing must be scaled to ship the quantity of hydrogen the ammonia course of requires for the time being, with hydrogen being piped straight out of the electrolyzers and into the high-pressure metal reactor to mix with the nitrogen from the air. That’s as a result of hydrogen may be very costly to maneuver.

Quebec has the situations for fulfillment for inexperienced ammonia

And so, to Quebec. It doesn’t make ammonia fertilizers in the present day, however imports them. Yara, the worldwide fertilizer big, has a fertilizer plant in Saskatchewan for ammonia-based fertilizers, however that’s utilizing pure gasoline. It does personal a terminal on the St. Lawrence River in Quebec nonetheless, which it makes use of to import fertilizer. It might simply as simply export fertilizer. So there are two of the situations of success, a significant fertilizer participant that already makes ammonia-based fertilizers elsewhere current in Quebec and with a terminal that would function a gateway for export.

As famous, Canada and particularly Europe have carbon costs. Canada’s already consists of methane and laughing gasoline, and in 2026, the EU’s will as nicely. What else is going on in 2026? The EU carbon border adjustment mechanism will likely be utilized to something that they import. Canadian merchandise will get a reduction based mostly on how a lot the merchandise paid in carbon tax already, which can assist.

That signifies that ammonia fertilizers made in Canada from pure gasoline are getting costlier for Canadian farmers, and that inexperienced ammonia fertilizers will likely be getting very favorable import charges to the EU in comparison with black or grey ammonia. It doesn’t assist that a whole lot of that was being imported to Europe from Russia. The pure gasoline worth spikes in Europe led to ammonia producers shutting down as a result of their fertilizer turned too costly.

So what are the impacts of the carbon costs? Enter one other thread, the place somebody requested my opinion concerning the inexperienced ammonia desires in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

The typical worth per ton for ammonia in Canada diverse considerably over the previous yr, principally aligned with pure gasoline costs. At the moment the nation exports and imports virtually completely to and from the USA, and therefore export worth is about by US costs. Most lately the common export worth was US$524 or C$694 per ton, implying that the price of manufacturing was under that time. The import worth averaged round US$1,000 or C$1,325 over the yr with fluctuations from over US$2,000 to underneath US$500. Predictably, worth factors appeared greater within the spring, though I’m taking a look at a single yr’s knowledge and am not an ammonia commodities professional.

Let’s begin with low-cost pure gasoline and the C$694 per ton export worth. Lets assume manufacturing prices of C$600. With low-cost pure gasoline, steam reformation and no carbon seize, manufacturing hydrogen prices round US$1.00 or C$1.30 per kg. Hydrogen is just 18% of the mass of ammonia regardless of there being 3 times as many hydrogen atoms as nitrogen atoms as a result of hydrogen is so mild. A ton of ammonia could have about 180 kilograms of hydrogen and that might price roughly C$234 of the C$600 manufacturing price.

Additionally lately, I assessed the fairly remarkably unhealthy enterprise case and plans for a hydrogen van startup which is proposing to construct a hydrogen manufacturing facility and van plant in Shawinigan, Quebec. Its plans collapse as a result of there is no such thing as a client of hydrogen that retirement group half method between Montreal and Quebec Metropolis, and it proposed to create demand with 3.5 ton supply automobiles fueled by hydrogen that are a lifeless finish.

This doesn’t imply manufacturing hydrogen in Quebec is a foul concept in any respect. It has a lot of firmed, low-cost, inexperienced electrical energy. However use circumstances ought to be based mostly in actuality, and hydrogen for transportation isn’t actuality. Inexperienced hydrogen for ammonia, nonetheless, is actuality.

What would inexperienced ammonia price to fabricate in Quebec?

Let’s take into account a fairly sized ammonia manufacturing plant. Per a fast troll by the web, a big plant would produce 1,000 to three,000 tons of ammonia per day. At 18% hydrogen, that might require 180 to 540 tons per day. Let’s begin on the small finish of the massive scale, and assume we needed to construct an built-in hydrogen-ammonia plant that might produce 180 tons of hydrogen and switch it into 1,000 tons of ammonia every day.

The transportation use case I assessed had a 35 MW electrolyzer which might be able to manufacturing 0.73 tons of hydrogen an hour, therefore 17.5 tons of hydrogen a day. That’s one order of magnitude brief, so let’s make it a 350 MW electrolyzer facility.

The size of the plant from 35 MW to 350 MW, sharing an built-in facility with ammonia plant and a smart administration construction would allow the essential worth level of producing hydrogen to be the price of hydrogen to the ammonia facility. The steadiness of plant could be a barely decrease capital price, however nonetheless require on the order of 400 MW of energy.

As I famous earlier within the yr when assessing one other ill-fated hydrogen for transportation use case, this one for a hydrogen prepare, Quebec has 40 GW of nameplate capability, however most of it’s spoken for. They had been unable to meet the 9 GW of capability requests for hydrogen electrolysis tasks. However for this case research, let’s assume that the notional ammonia plant can get the 400 MW of energy.

With Quebec’s Price L for big industrial shoppers, they’d pay C$0.03503 per kWh and C$13.779 per peak kW. That turns into round C$3.00 only for electrolysis and steadiness of plant. Add one other C$0.55 for capital price for very low-cost C$400 per kW alkaline electrolyzers and steadiness of plant for C$3.55 per kilogram or C$3,550 per ton hydrogen. That’s potential as a result of they may run at 95% utilization. At 60% utilization the capital price per kilogram could be nearer to C$0.90 per kilogram. At 30% utilization, C$1.75. Because of this you want firmed electrical energy for reasonable hydrogen, and why the mix of things for Quebec’s electrical energy is so interesting.

For context, that’s equal to US$0.049 cents per kWh electrical energy for twenty-four/7/365 inexperienced electrical energy. It’s extremely troublesome to create that worth level even with low price wind and photo voltaic. Photo voltaic and wind farms each would have to be constructed throughout a big sufficient geographic space to require transmission and storage added. Getting that capital and operational expense per kWh underneath 5 cents USD per kWh is extremely difficult. As I’ve acknowledged many instances, hydrogen will be inexperienced, however it might probably’t be low-cost resulting from this dynamic. Huge, totally amortized, totally carbon free hydroelectric amenities with transmission constructed 40 or 100 years in the past aren’t mendacity about ready for use.

However C$3.55 per kilogram is nonetheless virtually precisely 3 times extra pricey than hydrogen comprised of low-cost pure gasoline with out carbon seize, and sure near the perfect price potential on the planet. It doesn’t harm that they’ve very preferential — some would say extortionate — charges for hydroelectric energy from neighboring Newfoundland-Labrador.

Taking our roughly C$234 price of hydrogen for a ton of ammonia in an built-in ammonia plant, our notional Quebec plant would see prices of C$639 for the hydrogen, bringing the price of manufacturing as much as roughly C$1,000.

At 66% extra pricey per ton to fabricate, that doesn’t look that interesting. Bear in mind although, that the common import worth of hydrogen was C$1,325. C$325 seems to be like a margin that could possibly be worthwhile with distribution and earnings, so might simply knock a whole lot of US imports out of the market. Extra Canadian cash staying in Canada.

What implications does carbon pricing have for inexperienced ammonia?

After which there’s the success issue of carbon pricing getting into the equation.

Keep in mind that each ton of grey hydrogen has a debt of about 11 tons of carbon dioxide or equal. In 2030, Canada’s carbon worth will likely be C$170 per ton, and therefore a ton of grey hydrogen will price much more. Bear in mind too that it was roughly C$1.32 per kilogram or C$1,320 per ton. The carbon worth will add $1,870 to that, making grey hydrogen $3,190 per ton. That compares way more favorably to the $3,550 for inexperienced hydrogen.

For a ton of ammonia, we want 0.18 tons of hydrogen. Grey ammonia would price roughly $940 per ton to fabricate in Canada, fairly near the $1,000 per on price of inexperienced ammonia. That’s remarkably shut, solely a 6% price distinction. Presumably not sufficient for farmers to care about although, aside from the committedly inexperienced ones.

Let’s take one other carbon worth level, the social price of carbon. Canada, the USA and the EU have harmonized their methodology for a way a lot each further ton of carbon dioxide or equal will price future generations. In 2030, all of them agree that the social price of carbon will likely be roughly C$294.

Assuming Canada’s precise 2030 carbon worth was C$294, what would the price of grey ammonia be? It’s straightforward math. The social carbon debt of a ton of hydrogen will likely be C$3,234, and can add about C$580 to the price of a ton of grey ammonia, which might, in an ideal world, make it utterly uneconomic. $1,520 per ton ammonia would discover no takers.

Why carry up the social price of carbon? Coverage within the EU and Canada has been trending towards making the precise carbon worth align with the social price of carbon. Assuming a rational get together — one of many 4 federal events with seats in Parliament which strongly helps carbon pricing, versus the fifth which is making weak noises a few totally different carbon worth — continues to carry the reigns of presidency, the C$170 2030 cap will likely be raised. Given that there’s an election in 2025, it could be raised earlier than then. It’s going up by C$15 per yr now, so it might simply go up by C$25 or C$40 afterward.

Or that one pesky and irrational, backward wanting, fossil gasoline oriented get together might take a majority in 2025, and toss the carbon worth and all of those calculations out the window. Given polling in the present day, there’s a very good cause to be involved that it will occur. That may affect monetary choices concerning the capital investments required for a thousand ton a day ammonia manufacturing facility the place none exists in the present day.

Enter the European market

Europe is driving the planet to decarbonization. It’s the third largest market in the present day for those who solely take into account the EU, however for those who add within the UK and Turkey, it’s the second largest market. Turkey has been making an attempt to get in for nearly thirty years, so it can ultimately. The EU is a significant import market globally.

And the EU has an emissions buying and selling scheme (ETS) and a carbon border adjustment mechanism which impacts imports. In the present day the EU ETS carbon worth is the best on the planet, peaking at over €100 or C$146 and at the moment at €80 or C$117. Hmmm. Neither of these are close to the C$170 carbon worth level I’ve been utilizing for 2030. Why is that this related?

The EU has printed clear enterprise case steering associated to carbon pricing. The 2030 carbon worth they require companies to make use of for substantive price profit analyses is round C$270 per ton of carbon dioxide or equal. It’s round C$380 in 2040.

Is the EU a threat free market? No. Is it extra more likely to persist in carbon pricing than North America? Sure. Does it signify an alternate marketplace for a thousand tons of low-carbon therefore low-cost inexperienced ammonia a day? Sure.

May Quebec ship inexperienced ammonia to the EU? Sure. Yara has a fertilizer import terminal in Quebec on the St. Lawrence River which could possibly be transformed to a liquified ammonia export terminal. Ammonia is less expensive to liquify than the deeply pricey hydrogen and even LNG. It solely must be chilled to -33° Celsius. That’s nothing examine to the -273° Celsius required for hydrogen.

A ship might sail month-to-month to the EU with 30 tons of chilled ammonia for that market. Forty of the roughly 66 ammonia tankers at the moment plying the oceans are nicely over that dimension already.

Tripling plant capability to three,000 tons a day would imply a ship each ten days. The EU makes use of virtually 10 million tons of ammonia fertilizer yearly and it’s having challenges. Yara, once more, is without doubt one of the corporations that shut down ammonia vegetation within the EU as a result of excessive price of gasoline. The EU is struggling to construct sufficient low carbon technology on the continent and as per my evaluation of northern African-European hydrogen initiatives earlier this yr, is hoping that the Maghreb area will provide them. However these initiatives are stupidly for hydrogen for power, not inexperienced ammonia for fertilizer.

No matter what Canada or the USA does, Quebec’s ammonia would discover a excessive worth level market within the EU.

Mud off the Becancour plans

A decade in the past, India’s largest fertilizer producer needed to construct a large ammonia fertilizer plant on the opposite aspect of the St. Lawrence from Shawinigan, about 55 kilometers drive away. The fee rose an excessive amount of, and the group cancelled the plans. It was undoubtedly going to be a grey hydrogen plant regardless. But it surely was going to be an enormous one, 3,850 tons per day.

The enterprise situations have modified radically since then, because the evaluation above reveals.

Yara has owned the Contrecoeur terminal on the south aspect of the St. Lawrence close to Montreal since 1996. It’s an import terminal, however could possibly be configured for export.

Canadian and EU carbon pricing make gross sales of ammonia fertilizer in Canada and exports to the EU worth aggressive in opposition to grey hydrogen in Canada and the EU.

There’s a powerful enterprise case for inexperienced ammonia fertilizer manufacturing in Quebec. It has Canadian and EU markets, with the flexibility to hedge between them. Certainly somebody is engaged on this?

Something I can consider somebody is already engaged on

Enter Trammo. Who or what’s Trammo?

Trammo is a number one worldwide bodily commodities buying and selling and logistics firm on the coronary heart of the worldwide provide chain. We market, commerce, distribute and transport uncooked supplies crucial to the fertilizer, petrochemical and mining industries, together with being a market chief in anhydrous ammonia, sulphur, sulphuric acid and petroleum coke, with area of interest positions in completed fertilizers and nitric acid.  

Again to Materials World, Trammo is without doubt one of the corporations you’ve by no means heard of, like many of the corporations in that guide. It buys, sells and ships core industrial feedstocks around the globe.

In March 2022, it signed an offtake settlement for 800,000 tons a yr of inexperienced hydrogen with TEAL Chimie & Énergie, a Quebec-based agency which will or will not be an actual factor. Per the perfect knowledge I’ve discovered, it barely exists, based in 2020. It has a few founders, neither of whom have a background in manufacturing industrial commodities.

The place did I discover out about this deal? On the Ammonia Power Affiliation web site. It’s mainly the ammonia trade’s response to the potential to multiply demand for its product by making it an power provider and gasoline, which isn’t going to occur. It amplifies something which sounds remotely seemingly a deal to create the impression that ammonia goes to be the power provider of the longer term.

Trammo is deeply critical. Teal? To be decided.

Whether or not the Trammo-Teal initiative strikes ahead, I assure that others have accomplished the identical primary evaluation I’ve accomplished right here and are looking for the mix to the lock to maneuver a rock stable initiative ahead.

Inexperienced ammonia fertilizer is a critical enterprise, in contrast to inexperienced ammonia for power. Quebec has all of the situations for fulfillment to make it a actuality.

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