Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) along with compatriot Fertiglobe has sold its first cargo of blue ammonia to Japan’s Itochu, amid an increased clean energy push in the emirate.

State-controlled giant Adnoc said in a statement on Tuesday that Fertiglobe — a 58:42 joint-venture between Dutch chemicals company OCI and Adnoc - “will produce blue ammonia at its Fertil plant in the Ruwais Industrial Complex in Abu Dhabi” for delivery to customers in Japan.

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“The shipments, which were sold at an attractive premium to grey ammonia, underscore the favourable economics for blue ammonia as an emerging source of low-carbon energy,” Adnoc said.

The company added that the shipment “represents the first production milestone of a planned scale-up of blue ammonia production capabilities in Abu Dhabi, which is expected to include a low-cost debottlenecking program at Fertil".

Blue ammonia is made from nitrogen and blue hydrogen derived from natural gas feedstock, with the carbon dioxide by-product from hydrogen production captured and stored.

Decarbonisation efforts

For Japan, in particular, hydrogen and its carrier fuels, such as blue ammonia, are expected to play an important role in the country’s ongoing industrial decarbonisation efforts, added Adnoc.

The shipment sold to Japan will be utilised for fertiliser production, building upon the “joint efforts” between the UAE and Japan that are aimed at developing new blue ammonia supply chains, the Emirati state-controlled giant said.

Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Adnoc group chief executive, said the “announcement builds upon Adnoc’s commitment to expanding the UAE’s position as a regional leader in the production of hydrogen and its carrier fuels, meeting the needs of critical global export markets such as Japan".

TA'ZIZ Blue Ammonia project

Adnoc in May announced that it is progressing plans to build a large blue ammonia project as it deepens the United Arab Emirates’ exposure to emerging low-carbon fuel value chains.

The facility, which has moved to the design phase, will be developed at the new TA’ZIZ industrial complex and chemicals hub at Ruwais in the west of the country.

“The design contract for this project has already been awarded, with a final investment decision for the project expected in 2022, and start-up targeted for 2025,” the company said.

The facility is expected to have capacity of 1 million tonnes per annum, with Fertiglobe joining Adnoc and ADQ as a partner in the blue ammonia project, subject to regulatory approvals.

Multiple agreements

Earlier this year, Adnoc signed a number of agreements to explore hydrogen supply opportunities with customers in key demand centres, including the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade & Industry and South Korea’s GS Energy.

Meanwhile, Russia and the UAE have recently reached an agreement to establish a joint working group on hydrogen energy.

"Russia and the UAE, in the course of joint consultations, agreed to create a joint working group on hydrogen energy. Within the group, the countries will develop bilateral cooperation in the field of hydrogen," Russia's Energy Ministry said.

Mandate given

Adnoc’s Supreme Petroleum Council last year gave a mandate to the state-owned giant to explore opportunities in hydrogen and hydrogen carrier fuels such as blue ammonia, with the ambition to position the UAE as a hydrogen leader.

Ammonia can be used as a low-carbon fuel across a wide range of industrial applications, including transport, power generation and steel, cement and fertiliser production, it added.

Adnoc is already a key producer of hydrogen and ammonia, with more than 300,000 tonnes per annum of hydrogen produced at the Ruwais Industrial Complex.

The company also operates Al Reyadah, which it claims is the world’s first fully commercial CO2 facility for the iron and steel industry, and the first commercial-scale carbon capture, utilisation and storage project in the Middle East.

Al Reyadah captures up to 800,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum from steel production in the UAE.