Fuel cell innovators AFC Energy have announced what they claim as the world’s biggest trial plant for producing low carbon hydrogen from ammonia.

Weekly output of as much two tonnes of fuel grade green hydrogen is targeted for sale into AFC Energy’s UK H-Power Generator deployments. The firm has also secured initial distribution for the cracker, signing a letter of intent with a large European energy company, unnamed in today’s announcement.

Hydrogen is seen as a key stepping stone in vastly stepping up the power production essential to electrifying industrial processes which currently burn fossil fuels.

AFC’s ammonia cracker trial is to be located at an undisclosed location in the UK.  Ammonia feedstock will be provided from the Rotterdam plant of partner OCI Global.

Ammonia’s well-established global supply chains are a major advantage as as a hydrogen carrier fuel, AFC believes.   A string of mobile cracker plants such as trialled by the firm holds out potential to remedy a major weakness for the technology, its current lack of commercially available ammonia cracking technologies.

Based at Dunsfold, Surrey, AFC has production partnerships spanning Europe.  High profile clients for its off-grid carbon-stripped power include Spanish construction giant Acciona and the Extreme E offroad e-mobility racing series.

The firm cites a forecast from technology advocates the Hydrogen Council that 400 out of the 660 million tonnes of hydrogen needed every year for carbon neutrality by 2050 will be transported over long distances. The same source says approximately 45% of that figure will be sourced from ammonia, a compound of hydrogen and nitrogen.

AFC Energy says its cracker system will consume a fraction of the power consumed by electrolysers, the alternative method of making green hydrogen from water.  Yoking mobile fuel cells to distributed ammonia crackers will free up and expand fuel cells’ use in refuelling electric trucks or re-charging batteries of ships converted to electric propulsion.

Nine months of work this year have gone into building and calibrating the demonstrator, says the company. Tests in the new year will attempt hydrogen output of up to 99.7% purity.

Re-packaging the pilot onto a containerised platform will also be a priority.   Success there will enable AFC to market a standalone product, capable of being sold to hydrogen consumers.

AFC’s chief executive Adam Bond 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.”


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