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Farm equipment by windmills in the Netherlands

Our Associate Antea Group Netherlands is leading the way with green ammonia projects across the country. Other countries, such as Italy and the US, are looking more into Hydrogen instead of Ammonia-H right now, but the demand for consulting in the Netherlands on green ammonia projects is rising.

According to Monique Berrevoets-Steenbakker of Antea Group Netherlands (AGN), they are consulting on seven large developments surrounding green ammonia. In the past, ammonia has had a negative reputation in the country because of its toxicity. In a high concentration, it is highly dangerous to humans and nature. It is hard to ignite, but it is flammable, and its vapor cloud can travel a long distance, which could be a threat to any urban areas. Governments have been afraid to permit it in the past because of these reasons which resulted in a strict regulatory environment.

It takes one bad incident, such as a train derailment in Serbia last December that spilled ammonia, to scare governments and citizens alike away from using ammonia for energy transition. When surrounding countries reported on this Serbian train derailment and ammonia spill, it created fear in people and led them to believe ammonia is too dangerous to use.

However, many governments and urban areas don’t realize how much knowledge we already have surrounding ammonia. It’s a great substance to use in energy transition as a hydrogen carrier and as a primary fuel as long as its toxicity is taken into account.

The ammonia Technology Readiness Level (TRL) is mature, as people have been dealing with ammonia for over 100 years. That makes a difference, because other substances that are lower on the TLR scale can be more dangerous as we know less about them. With ammonia, the body of knowledge and research is much larger than with other substances, so the industry knows how to handle it safely at this point.

Challenges with Ammonia Energy Transition

Currently since ammonia is an existing technology used in industrial areas, it is used safely and correctly. However, as green ammonia becomes more common in energy transition, new (unproven) technologies are beginning to be used more. For example, an ammonia cracker is a machine that cracks ammonia into hydrogen and nitrogen, which is a cost-effective way of generating those two substances. Hydrogen is then used for energy. While this cracking process isn’t new, it’s the fact that we are now doing this on a large industrial scale that brings us into unknown territory.

A lot of companies are working to develop a large-scale ammonia cracker. Another new thing is that ammonia is no longer only used in industrial areas, but it’s transported throughout the countries to where energy is needed. So, that brings ammonia close to urban areas, which hasn’t been done before on this scale.

How Antea Group Netherlands helps with Green Ammonia Projects

In offshore production, Antea Group Netherlands help companies get required legal registers, permit applications, and complete safety studies (for people working with it) and environmental studies (including risk analysis for humans but also for spills into the ocean / the effect on sea life).

In onshore production and storage, Antea Group Netherlands again provides advisory for legal registers and permit applications. Stakeholder management is also important in terms of safety and environmental issues, as well as the transport of ammonia. It’s key to look at all the stakeholders and how they use the ammonia. Antea Group Netherlands also helps with spatial planning, which includes how the location of the facility is planned and how the urban area that’s close to a facility is planned. Finally, Antea Group Netherlands advises governmental parties such as fire departments in how to deal with an incident in emergency planning.

Storage usually takes place in industrial areas in HSE storage terminals. Antea Group Netherlands does pretty much everything from terminal management to permitting to emergency response. They are building up a large amount of experience with this.

Now, as more companies look into ammonia cracking on an industrial scale, Antea Group Netherlands supports them with Hazard and Operability Analysis (HAZOP) support, engineering support, and risk studies. Typical clients include industrial clients and the national government and ministry, as AGN advises them on how to use ammonia in the energy transition sector.

What’s Changing with Green Ammonia

A few years ago, the Netherlands banned nearly all transport of ammonia through the country. Now, as green ammonia becomes a stronger player in the energy transition sector, that is rolling back. Western Europe needs carbon free energy, especially with the ongoing energy crisis, so at this moment the use of ammonia is inevitable. AGN advises them on the risks and making legislation.

Authorities sometimes ask for support because there are few people in the country that have the knowledge to give permits for green ammonia. That includes advising on how to apply for permits, pushing for legislation at the government level to allow ammonia transport, and even helping teach people who give permits what they need to know about permitting for ammonia. AGN is in a position to help companies and authorities throughout the entire process.

Similarly, green ammonia projects are rising in New Zealand, with the building and development of potentially the world’s largest green hydrogen production plant in Southland. Our Inogen Alliance associate Tonkin + Taylor is providing early-stage planning and consenting expertise to help make the project a reality. Green ammonia may not be center stage yet in other countries around the world, but with interest rising on an industrial scale and the need for carbon free energy around the world, it’s only a matter of time.

According to Monique Berrevoets-Steenbakker of Antea Group Netherlands, in “The current situation, ammonia is used for fertilizers. But… when I see the projects we are involved in, the landscape will be completely different. I think in the next 10-20 years we’ll see the landscape very much changing from oil to ammonia… we are involved in other sources, but they are not as developed as green ammonia is.”

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