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AFC Energy's cracking pilot plant shows potential to unlock global hydrogen trade

5 December 2023
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Hydrogen

AFC Energy, the Cranleigh-based company, announced a big potential advance for the global hydrogen trading industry this week, with the firm's first successful production of so-called 'cracked' hydrogen in a pilot project.

The company has started up its first "ammonia to hydrogen" cracker demonstration plant in the UK - the world's largest such plant in operation.

READ MORE: AFC Energy renews collaboration with hydrogen producer Air Products

It is buying the ammonia, which is then cracked into hydrogen for use in fuel cell applications, from OCI Global, a leading producer of hydrogen based products. It is being delivered to AFC via OCI's Port of Rotterdam terminal.

The cracker plant system splits the ammonia into hydrogen and nitrogen and can produce up to 400kg of fuel cell-grade hydrogen per day.

AFC highlighted that the Hydrogen Council, in collaboration with McKinsey and Company, has forecast that 400 out of the 660 million tons of hydrogen needed for carbon neutrality by 2050 will be transported over long distances, with the global trade of hydrogen derivatives, including ammonia, accounting for around 45%.

Ammonia already has an established supply chain, so there is a lower barrier to its global adoption as a hydrogen carrier fuel, AFC noted, adding there was a lack of "commercially available ammonia cracking technologies".

Adam Bond, the chief executive of AFC Energy, said: "With an ammonia cracker offering market leading efficiency, low power consumption and the production of fuel cell grade hydrogen, AFC Energy's first pilot project is a major step forward in unlocking the barriers of hydrogen logistics and transport.

"The cracker system, in containerised form, will be capable of replication across Europe and Asia with our ability to generate low cost, decarbonised hydrogen from internationally traded green and blue ammonia being a key step forward in the evolution of the global hydrogen market."

AFC Energy said that engineering would start in 2024 to containerise the ammonia cracker platform, including purification technology, to "enable mobile, distributed hydrogen production at the point of consumption with an initial focus on European and Asian markets".

The containerised cracker platform then becomes a standalone product capable of being sold to hydrogen consumers, it told investors.

The company also expects to begin cracking green ammonia for the next stage of the project.

It has also signed its first Letter of Intent with the trading arm of one of Europe's largest energy companies to market the potential for ammonia as a hydrogen carrier fuel to its customers.

The company is also currently in talks with multiple European project partners, demonstrating the high growth potential of its modular, scalable cracker technology, it added.

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Giles Gwinnett is a writer at The Business Magazine. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and covered a vast array of topics at a range of media settings - in print and online. After his NCTJ newspaper training, he became a reporter in Hampshire before moving to a news agency in Gloucestershire. In recent years, he has been covering the financial markets along with company news for an investor-focused web portal. His many interests include politics, energy and the environment. He lives in Dorset.

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