A $4.6 billion plant will make ammonia ‘the fuel of the future’ – but not the fuel the environment actually requires
It costs $4.6 billion to build a giant ammonia factory that will produce fuel for cars, trucks and aircraft.
But will it produce enough to be cost-efficient?
The answer depends on whom you ask.
Ammonium Sulphate for cars: Not enough
The ammonia plant, one of the biggest in the world, is to be a key part of Australia’s future energy supply.
Ammonia is a by-product of the food industry, making fertilisers, so it’s a perfect match for car fuel.
But with the global price of ammonia rising, many people are asking why there is no cheaper way to make fuel out of it than the ammonia plant.
The Australian Energy Market Operator (Enet) says the plant would make petrol from its ammonia – but by a process called “dilution” that involves moving the heat from the ammonia to make the petrol.
If the plant produces the right amount of fuel, that fuel could be transported by rail as is now done – and then transported by road or trucks – not the way most cars are made.
But it would produce more than enough fuel to reduce the price of unleaded petrol by more than half to $4.50 a litre – the cheapest price in the world.
The plant – the largest in the world – will be an important part of Australia’s future energy supply. What will it produce?
The company behind the project, Nyrstar, says it will produce between 20 to 40 million litres of unleaded petrol, which it says is the most likely outcome of the project.
At a recent presentation to the Prime Minister, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said “it is likely to be the case” that “Australian motorists will be able to buy a fuel that doesn’t rely on oil or gas”.
Opponents of the project say it needs to provide a cleaner fuel and, therefore, a cleaner environment for fuel to be