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Greenhouse Gases

Nutrien to study low-carbon ammonia project

The company says the $2 billion US plant would be the largest of its kind

by Alexander H. Tullo
May 20, 2022

A photo of Nutrien's Geismar, Louisiana, plant.
Credit: Nutrien
Nutrien is contemplating building low-carbon ammonia capacity at its plant in Geismar, Lousiana.

In another possible big-ticket project in the US to make low-carbon-intensity ammonia, Nutrien says it is considering spending $2 billion to build what would be the world’s largest clean ammonia facility at its site in Geismar, Louisiana.

The plant would have 1.2 million metric tons (t) per year of capacity to make what the company is calling “clean ammonia.” An autothermal reformer would generate hydrogen from natural gas for reaction with nitrogen to produce ammonia. The company is designing the facility to capture 90% of its carbon dioxide emissions.

Ashley Harris, vice president of environmental performance and innovation at Nutrien, says that rate of carbon capture is higher than the 60% level that conventional ammonia plants based on methane steam reforming typically achieve when they capture CO2. If Nutrien switches the plant’s fuel source from methane to hydrogen, the facility can reach net-zero emissions, he says.

Nutrien has signed an agreement with Denbury Carbon Solutions to transport and sequester underground the 1.8 million t of CO2 the plant would generate per year. Denbury has secured the rights to sequester 1.4 billion t of CO2 at sites in Louisiana, Texas, and Alabama.

The two firms have worked together before. Since 2013, Denbury has been taking about 300,000 t per year of CO2 emissions from Nutrien’s existing Geismar ammonia plant for use in enhanced oil recovery. The new plant’s CO2 won’t be used to produce oil. Nutrien, a Canadian fertilizer maker, says it will make a final investment decision next year for a possible startup of the facility in 2027.

Nutrien has also signed an agreement under which Mitsubishi Corporation will buy up to 40% of the plant’s output. The Japanese firm would market this ammonia to the Asian fuel market. Japan has been eying ammonia as a low-carbon fuel for power plants and other applications. Officials aim to consume 4 million t per year of it by the end of the decade.

Earlier this month, the fertilizer maker CF Industries and another Japanese firm, Mitsui & Co., announced that they are studying a low-carbon ammonia plant on the US Gulf Coast. The recent spate of low-carbon ammonia projects also includes LSB, which aims to install equipment to capture CO2 from its existing ammonia facility in El Dorado, Arkansas.

Harris says he expects that Nutrien’s project would qualify for a federal tax credit of $50 per metric ton of CO2 sequestered. Denbury’s desire to get further into carbon sequestration helped motivate the investment. “We had this opportunity for an extension of the partnership,” he says.



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