Ammonia: The missing link in the hydrogen story?

Hydrogen has become a central element of EU plans to reach net-zero emission by mid-century. The hydrogen strategy relies partly on imports of hydrogen produced from places like North Africa, the Arabic Peninsula and Ukraine. How will this work in practice?

Globally, 50% of all hydrogen is today produced by the fertiliser industry who uses it to produce ammonia, the main building block for all other nitrogen fertilisers.

Storing and transporting hydrogen is a challenge as it is the smallest and lightest molecule in nature and it liquefies only at the extremely low temperature of -253 degrees Celsius. Ammonia, though a different molecule, has 50 % more hydrogen than hydrogen itself. It also liquifies at -33 degrees and can be handled easily, similarly to liquified natural gas.

To deliver on the net-zero objective, Europe needs decarbonised fuels in sectors where electrification is not an option – like heavy industry, some areas of transport or heating. Ammonia is today used as a base material for several industrial products, most notably nitrogen fertilisers, but it could also be used directly as fuel for shipping and other industrial applications.

Euractiv organised this virtual conference to discuss the role of ammonia in the future EU net-zero emission strategy and how can it be integrated in the hydrogen strategy.

Questions included:

  • Can ammonia fill the role as storage and transportation carrier of renewable hydrogen?
  • What kind of infrastructure investment would be necessary for this to happen?
  • What kind of public support for investment would be necessary?
  • Can fertiliser producers mix renewable hydrogen with fossil-based hydrogen in a transition towards net-zero?
  • Will the maritime sector of the future be based on using carbon-free ammonia as a fuel?

Listen to the full event here:


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