Ammonia Pump Game Plan: Considering Thousands of Factors

Ammonia Pump Game Plan: Considering Thousands of Factors FEATURED STORY

The market for ammonia pump applications is growing at double-digit rates due to some environmental drivers. This market is susceptible to political developments and there are more than 1000 market niches where the facts and factors differ enough that the same value proposition cannot apply. Processes using ammonia vary, and therefore requires analyzing a different set of factors based on the application.

By Bob McIlvaine, President and Founder, the McIlvaine Company

The ammonia pump market relies upon many factors to determine its validation in the industry. Ammonia is becoming increasingly known for its renewable properties and efficiency with transportation and storage. However, obstacles arise when attempting to calculate the potential amount of ammonia used, where it will be used, and the appropriate equipment needed to utilize this resource. Therefore, continuous analysis is required to track significant changes in the demand of the market.

Ideally, analyzing ammonia in various niche markets creates a unique outcome for the industry. Understanding different factors to create accurate forecasts result in strong value propositions, it determines a need for ammonia pumps in the market and enable lower cost of ownership. Prior to considering a few of these potential factors, it is crucial to observe the worldwide ammonia production.

Currently, the World Ammonia Production is under 200 million tons per year. China produces approximately 40% of ammonia worldwide capacity followed by Russia with 9%, India with 7.5% and the United States with 7%.

Net-zero CO2 initiatives drive the market. Billions of tons of fossil fuels are now consumed by power companies. This impact will reflect significantly on the market if a small fraction switches to ammonia. Many factors determine whether the use of ammonia will be measured in the thousands or millions of tons. Ammonia can be transported more cost-effectively than hydrogen sources. For example, Yara has a contract with Japanese utilities to supply ammonia shipped from Australia. There is a substantial shipping cost for this distance.

Ammonia is currently one of the most popular refrigerants used for ice plants, food lockers, cold storage warehouses, and other industrial cooling processes. This source has a higher refrigerating effect, per unit of volume, than any other commonly used refrigerant. Other notable advantages are low initial cost, low pipe friction losses, zero ozone depletion potential (ODP) and zero Global Warming Potential (GWP). With the recent trend of environmental awareness in the refrigeration industry, natural refrigerants like ammonia are increasingly desirable.

Ammonia does not emit CO2 when burned; it is expected to become a next-generation fuel. It contains properties that are ideally suited for the hydrogen economy. Ammonia does not require extreme cooling and has a higher energy density than liquid hydrogen, making it more efficient to transport and store. Moreover, producing ammonia with renewable energy results in zero or minimal greenhouse gas emissions.

The Yuri Project includes a 10 MW electrolyzer, 18 MW solar PV and battery storage. Upon completion, the project will be one of Australia’s largest electrolyzers, capable of producing up to 640 tonnes of green hydrogen each year. Yuri Operations Pty Ltd will build the renewable hydrogen facility and supply the green hydrogen to Yara Clean Ammonia. The renewable hydrogen production is expected to be supplied to the ammonia plant in 2024.

Ammonia is transported in three phases: gaseous (anhydrous),aqueous, or urea, which is converted into ammonia at the site upon use. To reduce NOx at power plants, all three phases are being applied. Anhydrous is the least expensive, and aqueous is relatively safe but is not cost efficient. The onsite conversion of urea is popular for small applications where the safety requirements for anhydrous are challenging.

These variables create a challenge for pump suppliers, especially in determining how much ammonia will be used, where it will be used and in which phase. Continuous analysis is required to track significant changes in demand and location.

Pump Types

There are a few different pumps that can be utilized to transport ammonia. Most pumps are used for industrial processes, but industry professionals may also utilize pumps in air pollution control or other non-process applications. The same customer may also need pumps for water intake, cooling, dosing, and wastewater treatment. The value proposition for a pump package can be more attractive than for a single application. A mag drive pump can sustain higher pressures compared to many other pump types. Additionally, it can accommodate low temperatures benefitting ammonia that has to be kept condensed through a pressurized system. A mag drive pump will safely adapt to these requirements. A leak-free mag drive pump for ammonia is a viable option. For example, Verder supplies chemically inert non-metallic AODD pumps and peristaltic dosing pumps. Many pump companies sell packages with both pumps and compressors, or pumps and valves.

Optimizing the Pump/Valve System

It may be necessary to have pressure relief devices in any part of an ammonia pump and piping system that can be ‘valved’ off.

This provides essential over-pressure protection, as cold liquid ammonia when isolated, will expand as it warms up and exerts pressures that can potentially rupture the pump or piping unless relieved. Additionally, return-to-tank pressure relief valves should be mounted on the discharge side of the pump. Internal-type pressure relief valves should be mounted with the cap pointing towards the suction side of the pump.

In Summary

The best strategy for pursuing the ammonia market is to analyze the facts and factors in the niche and then create forecasts that reflect the value proposition, which results in an obtainable market. This is a challenging task involving thousands of factors.

The use of ammonia as a power plant fuel requires a different set of facts and factors than it does to use ammonia for refrigeration. The NOx control niche alone is an annual revenue opportunity for pump supplies of more than USD $50 million per year and is pursued by companies that provide whole packages, including compressors.

Many pump selection factors also need to be accounted for, such as materials. All the facts need to be analyzed continuously. The appropriate factors should be applied to determine the forecast, the market plan and create a value proposition.


1. Pump Facts, Factors, and Forecasts published by the Mcilvaine Company

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Shopia Ketheeswararajah is a feature editor contributing to Pump Engineer, Stainless steel World Americas, Hose and Coupling World, and other related print & online media.