Last week, OCP Group announced plans to develop green hydrogen and green ammonia as sustainable raw materials for use in fertilizer production. This includes building pilot plants in both Germany, already under construction, and Morocco, yet to begin construction, as well as “the possible establishment of an African Institute for Solar Ammonia.”
OCP is the world’s largest exporter of phosphate fertilizers, and the Moroccan company controls more than 70% of the world’s known reserves of phosphates. Ammonia is an important input to OCP’s finished fertilizer products, like monoammonium phosphate (MAP) or diammonium phosphate (DAP), and a producer as large as OCP measures its ammonia consumption in millions of tons per year. OCP also has a deep, industry-leading commitment to sustainable development, and it has been investigating potential supply chains for sustainable ammonia for some years.
Now, through its new cooperation agreement with the Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems, in Germany, and its ongoing partnership with the Moroccan Institute for Research in Solar Energy and New Energies (IRESEN), OCP is establishing itself as a leader in the development of green ammonia.
Corporate strategy, economic drivers, cost-competitiveness
The announcement quotes Mostafa Terrab, Chairman of OCP, who describes the company’s attitude toward sustainability, saying that “responsibility for the environment has always been important to us, not just when working in our mines, but as a fundamental principle of our circular economy approach. The use of Green Ammonia fits in with this strategy.” Beyond this, Terrab cites the market drivers behind OCP’s investment decision, explaining that the development of technologies for green ammonia production “can help conserve valuable resources and provide our customers with sustainable new products.”
Pilot plants in Germany and Morocco
In Leuna, Germany, the Fraunhofer Institute is already at an advanced stage of construction with its green hydrogen pilot plant, which is set to begin production in 2019. The pilot will supply green hydrogen to companies in that industrial cluster, which includes BASF, DOMO Caproleuna, Dow, Linde, and Total, among many others.
According to last week’s announcement, this pilot plant technology will now be replicated at IRESEN’s Green Energy Park in Ben Guerir, Morocco, with the addition of an ammonia synthesis unit. And looking to the future, beyond ammonia produced using electrolytic hydrogen, the parties are also looking at technologies for the “electrocatalytical synthesis” of ammonia, as well as the potential for “biotechnological phosphorous modification.”
If OCP enacts these plans, this will be the first green ammonia pilot plant in Africa. Although the continent until recently boasted two industrial-scale commercial green ammonia plants, at Aswan Dam in Egypt and Kwekwe in Zimbabwe, the conflicting economics of natural gas and electricity markets had thwarted both of those hydroelectric projects, and the electrolyzer banks of both plants were shut down over the last few years. Hopefully, this trend can begin to reverse, as OCP and its partners investigate “the possible establishment of an African Institute for Solar Ammonia.”