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The first step making fertilizer is making ammonia. Amonia is made with the Haber-Bosch[1] process by combining nitrogen with hydrogen. The hydrogen from that is made by combining steam and natural gas to make hydrogen and carbon monoxide[2]. The carbon from the natural gas ends up as CO2 in the atmosphere. If there were more green way to produce hydrogen for a reasonable price that would knock out a significant source of global CO2 emissions.

If solar power gets cheap enough maybe it'll make sense to use the excess power at noon for electrolysis, though I don't have a good sense of the capital costs for that.



Indeed. Unlike cars which really want mechanical energy or electricity (with hydrogen just being one way to provide that electricity... at lower efficiency than battery-electric), fertilizer production already needs hydrogen, with methane being an indirect way to provide that hydrogen.

Instead of trying to compete one-to-one against natural gas for thermal applications or battery-electric for electric ones, you can compete on turf that requires hydrogen fundamentally, saving the investment in a steam reformer. So if you have hydrogen already, instead of needing an extra capital investment (like a fuel cell in a fuel cell car), you actually can reduce capital investment (the steam reformer).

Also, it's large and centralized (large, centralized hydrogen plants have a cheaper relative capital cost and tend to be more efficient) and there are even ammonia pipelines carrying the ammonia to the Midwest from Texas (with world-class wind AND solar potential and plenty of land), so you don't have to deal with hydrogen storage and distribution issues.

It's a way better spot for wind and solar produced hydrogen to compete than in mobile fuel cell applications where you have to solve a bunch of other problems (fuel cells, distribution, hydrogen storage cost and safety to the uninvolved public, small electrolysis facilities with requisite lower efficiency and higher specific capital cost) while simultaneously having to compete with the low price of electricity and natural gas.

That makes lots of sense! Thanks you

I know that at least on Orkney Island they have surplus energy that they use to produce hydrogen


Though I'm sure we're talking about completely different orders of magnitude

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