The Role of Renewable Ammonia in the Energy Transition

Ammonia is an essential global commodity mainly used for nitrogen fertilizers. Ammonia is also emerging as a zero-carbon fuel for stationary power generation, as a hydrogen carrier for international trade of carbon-free energy, and as the backbone fuel for the decarbonisation of the international shipping sector.

Today, however, ammonia is produced almost exclusively from fossil fuels, causing approximately 1% of total GHG emissions, representing around 20% of industrial natural gas demand and 5% of industrial coal demand. A transition to renewable ammonia is therefore essential to shift chemical, agricultural, energy, and transport sectors toward limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5°C and bringing CO2 emissions closer to net-zero by the mid-century. Furthermore, this would decouple ammonia production from natural gas pricing and supply, with the potential to reduce price volatility and enhance food and energy security.   

Renewable ammonia has been produced at industrial scale since the 1920s, with hydroelectricity powering alkaline electrolysers to feed the Haber-Bosch plant. However, natural gas became the dominant feedstock, starting in the 1940s. Already today, renewable hydrogen can be introduced in a fossil-based ammonia plant, replacing 10-20% of the natural gas. And, with the first of many proposed multi-GW renewable ammonia plants already under construction, it is expected that renewable ammonia will dominate ammonia capacity additions from 2025.

This webinar presented the outlook for renewable ammonia, including market projections, cost competitiveness, technology evolution and policy measures needed to facilitate the transition from a fossil- to a renewables-based ammonia production. The presentation of the key findings from the new report “Innovation Outlook: Renewable Ammonia”, jointly developed by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Ammonia Energy Association (AEA), was followed by a discussion with industry experts on most urgent actions needed to realise the full potential for renewable ammonia in a net-zero energy future.