Hydrogen is a fundamental chemical building block for a variety of commodity chemicals and fuels including ammonia and synthetic methane for which there are massive world markets. The use of renewable hydrogen as a feedstock would deliver a net reduction and in some cases be a net consumer of carbon dioxide (CO2).
Conventional production of ammonia (NH3) is a large scale industrial process, very dependent on fossil fuels and is currently made using hydrogen derived from natural gas. Currently 5% of global natural gas consumption is used to make ammonia (2% of world energy) causing this agricultural process to contribute between 12–14% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Urea is a nitrogen-rich fertiliser and is made from ammonia and carbon dioxide. With the growing global population and demand for foodstuffs increasing, together with less acreage being dedicated to crop cultivation, 50% of current global food production relies on the use of ammonia based fertilisers to increase these yields.
Ammonia and urea fertiliser can be produced sustainably by using hydrogen derived by electrolysis of water using renewable energy supply in a PEM electrolyser. This de-couples ammonia production from fossil fuels. In the case of urea, it also decarbonises the process further, as it provides a means of utilising waste carbon dioxide.
Renewable hydrogen offers a decentralised, local fertiliser production, security of supply and crop yield for a growing world population as well as price stability, avoiding link to fossil fuel volatility.