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One Step Ahead - Clean Ammonia Production Planned at Leading Deepwater Ammonia Terminal

It makes perfect sense, really. If you’re planning to build a large, low-carbon ammonia production facility that’s targeting the export market, why not site it alongside the Gulf Coast’s leading deepwater ammonia terminal? That helps to explain why INPEX Corp., LSB Industries, Air Liquide and Vopak Moda Houston — the last a joint venture of Royal Vopak and Moda Midstream that recently developed the ammonia terminal — are collaborating on the development of a planned 1.1 million ton per annum (1.1 MMtpa) clean ammonia production plant along the Houston Ship Channel. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the proposed production facility, the markets its clean ammonia would serve, and the benefits of building the project at an existing terminal. 

Even as the Shale Era enters middle age, there’s still a long list of old-school energy projects under construction or in development. New gas processing plants in the Permian. Gas and NGL pipeline expansions from the Permian to the Gulf Coast. Additional storage at crude oil export terminals. And new fractionators in Mont Belvieu. (All that’s just a sample.) But the scope of the energy industry has broadened in the past few years, and now includes things like renewable diesel (RD), sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), clean hydrogen and, yes, clean ammonia. And all of those next-generation energy sources require new infrastructure of their own.

As we discussed recently in Burn On, more than 35 MMtpa of clean ammonia production capacity is under development in the U.S., the vast majority of it along the Gulf Coast and much of it by big-time energy and industrial-gas players like ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Air Products & Chemicals. Generally speaking, the projects they are planning would react clean hydrogen with nitrogen to produce clean ammonia. [The clean hydrogen would be produced by running natural gas through an auto-thermal reformer (ATR) and capturing and sequestering the bulk of the resulting carbon dioxide (CO2).]

The boom in clean ammonia project development has several drivers, including the still-active ESG movement, the huge incentives for clean hydrogen production and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and the big push in Japan and South Korea to reduce CO2 emissions from coal plants by co-firing them with clean ammonia. Most recently, those same drivers are helping to propel the development of a 1.1-MMtpa clean ammonia project to be built on the inland portion of land owned by Vopak Moda Houston in the Tucker Bayou area near the eastern end of the Houston Ship Channel. The ammonia plant’s co-developers, listed in the introduction to today’s blog, are targeting commercial operation by late 2027. 

[RBN’s U.S. Gulf Coast Hydrogen Infrastructure Map lays out the pipelines and merchant hydrogen plants that make up the gulf coast market, providing an unprecedented snapshot of the region’s hydrogen infrastructure network. Click here for more information.]

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