Trammo-Proton Ventures Tie-Up May Be Good News for Developers

By Stephen H. Crolius on February 04, 2021

Click to enlarge. N-Fuel concept design, Proton Vetures press release, Trammo and Proton Ventures Sign Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation on Worldwide Green Ammonia Projects, January 19, 2021.

Headline: “Trammo and Proton Ventures Sign Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation on Worldwide Green Ammonia Projects” Source: Trammo press release dated January 18, 2021.

At face value, this is simply a case of two companies from different corners of the ammonia ecosystem coming together to leverage their complementary competencies: Trammo the trader cooperating with Proton Ventures the engineering firm to build a green ammonia business. But a careful look at this tie-up reveals intriguing possibilities for companies seeking to develop green ammonia production capacity.

Trammo describes itself as “a global commodity merchandiser engaged in the marketing, trading, distribution and transportation of a wide variety of commodity products, including being a market leader in anhydrous ammonia, sulfur, sulfuric acid, nitric acid and petroleum coke.” The company has its headquarters, a nitric acid plant, two terminal facilities, and various satellite offices in the United States. It also has satellite offices in eight other countries on three continents. Trammo is privately held. Forbes includes it as number 202 on its 2020 list of America’s largest private companies. Trammo had 2019 revenues of USD $2.3 billion and 150 employees, according to Forbes.

Although Proton Ventures cites an employee headcount of only 20, it has built an outsize profile since its founding in 2001 by championing ammonia energy concepts. The company, based in Schiedam in the Netherlands, provides engineering and project management services for customers who seek to build “ammonia storage facilities, small scale ammonia production facilities [and] SCR [selective catalytic reduction emissions control] processes.” A project example on its website describes how the company “conducted the Basic and Detailed Engineering Project for the deNOx and N2O emissions reduction in a major Nitric Acid production plant in Southern Europe.”

Here is the first paragraph of the Trammo press release:

As part of the joint cooperation, Proton Ventures would construct green ammonia production units, storage facilities and import and export terminals (“NFuel Projects”) and subsequently supply the green ammonia produced through wind and solar energy to Trammo. Trammo … would offtake and market the green ammonia and transport it to customers around the world using its fleet of specialized refrigerated vessels.

Trammo announcement, Trammo and Proton Ventures Sign Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation on Worldwide Green Ammonia Projects, January 18, 2021

In an email exchange, Proton Ventures executives stated that the company will stick with its customary role of project engineer. It does not intend to become an ammonia producer itself. Rather, the company will bring Trammo to prospective client projects as a potential offtaker. This could be a strong selling point for energy developers targeting smaller-scale green ammonia “distributed production” opportunities.

The executives also spoke to the scope of the Trammo-Proton Ventures vision: “In the coming years we strive to build in different locations around the world a total capacity of 1,000,000 [metric] ton ammonia per year as green ammonia … We are confident to reach competitive pricing of green ammonia at any place in the world due to a partnership between Proton and Trammo, in which we can strengthen the logistics of green ammonia to those places where ammonia is used.”

A million tonnes of green ammonia production capacity would require order-of-magnitude 1 GW of renewable electricity generation capacity.

The Proton Ventures executives also said that the venture’s technological scope would extend across the green ammonia process steps: “This production will go hand in hand with the development of the electrolyzer technology, new solar panel technology and with our Battolyser technology.”

Battolyser Update

A January 26, 2021 press release from Dutch “clean energy conglomerate” Koolen Industries reports that Battolyser BV will install a “15 kW/15 KWh” version of its eponymous technology “at the Magnum power station in Eemshaven in the Netherlands in early 2021.” Proton Ventures and Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) launched Battolyser BV in 2018 to commercialize a type of battery that can use incremental electricity to electrolyze water (producing hydrogen and oxygen) once it has been fully charged. The venture later received a capital investment from Koolen.

Noting that “the Battolyser could be a preferred tool in the energy transition,” Koolen’s press release continues:

“As soon as the first large-scale Battolyser solution has been cyclically tested to monitor hydrogen purity and efficiency, we will scale up to installations up to 10 Megawatt at industrial partners, solar parks and locations where electricity from offshore wind farms is coming on shore on a large scale. Ultimately, we will install Battolyser systems on a Gigawatt scale,” said Hans Vrijenhoef, CEO of Proton Ventures and interim CEO of Battolyser.

Koolen Industries announcement, The Battolyser: a battery that also produces hydrogen challenges conventional hydrogen production technology, January 26, 2021