Following the NH3 Fuel Association’s call last September for the formation of national organizations to advocate for ammonia energy, a chapter of the Association is taking shape in Australia. John Mott, until recently CEO of the Australian industrial refrigeration concern Gordon Brothers, has spearheaded the formation of a local chapter of the NH3 Fuel Association (NH3FA). The chapter will be known informally as the NH3 Fuel Association Oz. Monash University, the largest in Australia, has agreed to host the organization.
Mott, who is set to retire from Gordon Brothers later this year and who maintains a blog at ammoniaman.com.au, said that he has long been convinced of the positive and substantial role ammonia could play in the global energy system. However, he said in recent communications, “the ammonia fuel concept struggled to gain traction in Australia until last year’s NH3 Fuel Conference” in Los Angeles. But with a strong Australian turnout at the Conference, and reports of progress with a locally developed ammonia cracking technology, Mott said he “started to see what potential there was for the NH3 fuel community, especially if we could work closely with the hydrogen fuel community.”
Mott returned from Los Angeles with the idea of putting an organization together, and started talking to people who might be willing to assist in the effort. He was introduced to Douglas MacFarlane, a professor in the school of chemistry at Monash. MacFarlane turned out to be a “big supporter of ammonia,” Mott said. Moreover, “Doug said that part of Monash’s charter was to engage with industry and they would be very pleased to host and administer the NH3FA chapter; it was exactly up their alley, and they did similar things in other industries.”
In parallel, Mott canvassed potential participants and soon discovered widespread interest. “We have 45 names on our mailing list,” he said. “More people are joining every week.” Entities represented so far include the local offices of Siemens and Hyundai, and a variety of academic and research institutions, including the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO; the inventor of the aforementioned ammonia cracking technology) and the Melbourne Energy Institute at the University of Melbourne. Mott anticipates that individuals from Singapore, Malaysia, and New Zealand will also participate in the group. He is expecting 20-30 attendees for a kickoff meeting in August.
In Mott’s view, interest in the organization is fueled by emerging awareness of ammonia’s potential as a vector for the country’s substantial renewable energy resources. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the country’s mining industry – whose outputs include iron ore, uranium, and gold in addition to coal and natural gas – has accounted for half of the country’s exports in recent years. In this context, the country’s renewable energy resources are seen as a hedge against the inevitable moment when production of finite mineral resources starts to decline.
Mott said that the effort to engage positively with hydrogen-oriented players is going well. “We are dovetailing into the hydrogen community,” he said. “Hydrogen infrastructure is very expensive and very inefficient. Much better to handle the hydrogen as ammonia, and crack it at the hydrogen fueling station.”
The NH3 Fuel Association announced the formation of the Global Ammonia Energy Federation at the 2016 NH3 Fuel Conference. The goal of the Federation is to facilitate the formation of like-minded groups, and provide a structure for coordination across them. Speaking about the new group in Australia, NH3 Fuel Association President Norm Olson said “the establishment of the Australian chapter of the NH3FA is very exciting news. Australian representation at recent NH3 Fuel Conferences has been impressive so we’re sure this is the right move at the right time. We look forward to working with John Mott and others as the NH3 fuel movement puts down roots in Australia.”
Mott said that NH3FA Oz may hold a regional conference in November.
Anyone wishing to learn more about the NH3FA Oz initiative should email Mott at [email protected]. Anyone with an interest in organizational efforts outside Australia should send an email to [email protected].