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Norway’s Yara launches Europe's largest green hydrogen plant

Leading Norwegian fertiliser producer Yara International has launched Europe’s biggest green hydrogen facility which will be used to make ammonia for fertilisers.
Leading Norwegian fertiliser producer Yara International has launched Europe’s biggest green hydrogen facility which will be used to make ammonia for fertilisers.

Leading Norwegian fertiliser producer Yara International has launched Europe’s biggest green hydrogen facility which will be used to make green ammonia.

Yara CEO Svein Tore Holsether last month warned in an interview with the Financial Times that Europe risks becoming dependent on Russian fertilisers as imports climb steadily.

Yara began production of renewable hydrogen and ammonia at its Heroya plant in Porsgrunn, Norway, S&P Global reported on June 10. The facility, home to the largest electrolyser in Europe, marks a significant step in the company's decarbonisation efforts.

The 24-MW electrolyser, the largest of its kind in Europe, has already produced its first volumes of low-carbon footprint fertilisers using renewable ammonia feedstock. These initial products have been delivered to Swedish agricultural cooperative Lantmannen, Yara International announced in a statement.

The Heroya plant has a nameplate capacity of approximately 10,000 kg per day of hydrogen, sufficient to produce 20,500 tonnes per year (tpy) of ammonia. This ammonia can be converted into 60,000 to 80,000 tpy of green fertiliser, the company has stated previously.

Utilising water electrolysis and renewable energy through proton exchange membrane (PEM) technology from ITM Power, the plant's hydrogen will partially replace ethane gas as feedstock, cutting an estimated 41,000 tpy of CO2 emissions from the site, according to the company.

Yara signed a contract with Linde Engineering in January 2022 for the construction of the 24-MW green hydrogen demonstration plant at Heroya. Supported by a NOK283mn ($26.5mn) grant from Enova, part of Norway's Ministry of Climate and Environment, the project was initially slated to begin supplying green ammonia products by mid-2023. The plant's inauguration follows ramp-up operations earlier this year.

With this development, the Heroya plant surpasses Iberdrola and Fertiberia's Puertollano facility in Spain, which began producing green hydrogen for ammonia production in May 2022, to become the largest electrolyser in operation in Europe.

Despite the success at Heroya, other demonstration plants have faced delays due to rising costs, supply chain issues, and technical challenges. For example, Danish green hydrogen developer Everfuel has postponed the start of its 20-MW HySynergy electrolyser project in Fredericia to the second half of 2024.

The cost of green hydrogen production remains a concern. Platts, part of S&P Global Commodity Insights, assessed the cost of green hydrogen production via alkaline electrolysis in Germany at €8.25/kg ($8.86/kg) on June 7, up from €7.99/kg a month earlier. This assessment reflects a possible pathway for producing EU Renewable Energy Directive-compliant green hydrogen.

Yara has ambitious decarbonisation plans for the Heroya complex, aiming for complete decarbonisation within five to seven years. The complex at Porsgrunn has a total ammonia production capacity of 500,000 tpy.

Yara’s Holsether described the plant's startup as "a major milestone for Yara and for the decarbonisation of the food value chain, shipping fuel and other energy-intensive industries."

The fertilisers produced using renewable hydrogen and ammonia will be part of a new product portfolio that also includes fertilisers based on low-carbon ammonia utilising carbon capture and storage (CCS). CCS technology stores emissions captured from ammonia production using natural gas as feedstock.

Renewable ammonia is "an important part of the decarbonisation puzzle," said Hans Olav Raen, CEO of Yara's clean ammonia business. "However, developing it at scale takes time. As the world is rapidly approaching 2030, we are also working to produce low-carbon ammonia with CCS to enable the hydrogen economy and develop the emerging markets for low-emission ammonia," he added.

In November 2023, Yara signed a binding CO2 transport and storage agreement with Northern Lights, marking the world's first cross-border CCS agreement in operation. Yara has also outlined plans to reduce its annual CO2 emissions by 800,000 tpy at its Sluiskil plant in the Netherlands.

Additionally, Yara is evaluating "one to two world-scale low-carbon ammonia production projects with CCS in the US." Last July, Yara and BASF announced plans to study a blue ammonia production facility with carbon capture in the US Gulf Coast region, with a nameplate capacity of 1.2-1.4mn tpy.