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Ammonia steam boiler plans unveiled to help decarbonise off-grid businesses

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The Department for Energy Security & Net Zero has awarded £3.4m funding to Flogas Britain and Cardiff University to support the development of a “world-first” ammonia steam boiler, aiming to help decarbonise off-grid businesses across the UK. 

The 1MW ammonia-fuelled steam boiler is being developed using funding from the UK Government’s £55m Industrial Fuel Switching Competition, as part of the £1bn Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP). It will undergo trial at an active commercial manufacturing site, to ascertain how this new technology compares to existing low-carbon solutions.

Over the next two years, Flogas, who leads the project, and the academics at Cardiff University’s Net Zero Innovation Institute will look to prove that ammonia is a viable, cost-effective renewable fuel for large energy users off the mains gas grid, helping contribute to the UK’s net zero targets. As part of the study, a new Centre of Excellence on Ammonia Technologies will be created at Cardiff University, to further develop its ammonia combustion expertise and facilities.

James Rudman, Business Development Director at Flogas (third from left in the above picture) said:

“The off-mains industry in the UK is notoriously hard to decarbonise, and a lot of it is still powered by carbon-heavy oil, so finding cleaner, greener alternatives is a significant, pressing challenge, whilst LPG is an excellent transition fuel for oil users, cutting carbon by 20%* as well as other polluting emissions – to help off-grid businesses get all the way to net zero, we’re expanding our portfolio of renewables, including a range of green gases.

“Ammonia is a key part of this; we believe it’s a compelling, highly effective renewable option for off-grid industry, and an extremely cost effective one too. Plus, businesses running on LPG now, will be able to switch to ammonia in the future with modification to equipment.”

To date, technical barriers associated with ammonia combustion have restricted the use of this type of fuel in boilers. However, the research team has reportedly developed an innovative, patented boiler design that overcomes these challenges, including low flame speed and increased nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. The next phase of research will build on this work and demonstrate that the boiler design works effectively in an industrial setting.

Dr Syed Mashruk of Cardiff University’s Net Zero Innovation Institute and School of Engineering (far left of the above picture) added:

“In a net zero world, the oil used by businesses and industry must be replaced by a fuel that is cost-effective and zero carbon, and green ammonia is a promising alternative fuel. It can be distributed easily and stored inexpensively using infrastructure that has been well established already in the fertiliser sector.
Over the course of this project, we will bring to life our conceptual design for a 1 MW ammonia-fed steam boiler, creating a prototype and rigorously testing & improving it.

“At the end of the project, we aim to have a boiler that’s fit for commercialisation, and fuelled only by clean ammonia, which Flogas will then supply to customers as an off-grid industrial heating option.”

Supporting Flogas and Cardiff University on the ‘Amburn’ project are low carbon energy consultants Element Energy, who will lead project management, as well as Flogas’s recently acquired commercial heating and renewables company Protech Group, who will provide expert advice on combustion design.

The project represents phase two of government funding for the Amburn project and will run until early 2025. Phase one, which successfully concluded in November 2022, focused on the development of the patented burner technology design and received £242k funding.

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