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AHEAD proposing carbon-free ammonia fuel strategy to bring electricity rapidly to developing countries

AHEAD Energy—a US-based not-for-profit organization focused on energy for African development, is proposing rapidly bring power to the billions of people who still lack access to grid electricity or have access to only unreliable electricity networks by using a combination of polygeneration to produce green fuels (ammonia and hydrogen), distributed generation, and some renewables.

AHEAD’s polygeneration concept for ammonia and hydrogen fuels for developing countries. Click to enlarge.

The AHEAD concept for bringing power to off-grid areas in Africa is to make modest use of renewables where it makes sense, and to drive mass deployment of ammonia and hydrogen along with small engine generators, microturbines and fuel cell systems. Relying on such a distributed generation strategy avoids large investments in grid, power plants and energy storage, according to AHEAD.

At the 9th annual NH3 Fuel Conference in San Antonia, AHEAD chairman James Grieve outlined the three-step strategy for using associated gas—natural gas found with petroleum—to produce green fuels. As a “waste” byproduct of petroleum production, associated gas has conventionally been released to the atmosphere or flared. Coal and water could be used as input where natural gas is not available. The three elements of the plan are:

  1. Co-produce electricity, ammonia, hydrogen and CO2 using the associated gas (or gasified coal and water in the absence of gas).

  2. Injecting CO2 for enhanced oil recovery.

  3. Distribute hydrogen (locally) and ammonia (more broadly) as green fuels for carbon-free distributed generation and transportation.

Ammonia can serve as a fuel in a combustion engine (earlier post) or as a hydrogen carrier for fuel cells (earlier post).


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