A $4.6 billion plant will make ammonia ‘the fuel of the future’
Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson says the launch of a £2 billion ammonia plant that will be the world’s biggest will be a “game changer” – if his Virgin Group company gets the necessary approvals.
The plant, which can process 20 million tonnes of the gas a year, is being touted as a possible answer to an industry’s woes as the climate becomes a bigger and bigger problem.
Liam Byrne, the leader of the UK’s largest ammonia producer, who will see the plant go into operation in December, said: “I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve heard people think ammonia can’t be transported safely in this country as long as you’re driving a car.
“But on the other hand, the way things are now, I can say that. The technology is there. So why not?”
Byrne, who started his career as director of technology and chief operations officer at Virgin in 1986, said ammonia and its industrial cousin, hydrogen, could become the “fuel of the future”.
“The technology is there, it’s all there, and the market already has a lot of confidence in it,” he told the BBC’s World Business Today programme.
“If it works, everybody will have a use for it. If not, we won’t have any use for it.”
He added: “To me it is an exciting opportunity – we have to make sure we get it right. We can’t afford any mistakes here. The costs are already high in this field, and therefore we have to be very efficient.
“One thing that worries me is that sometimes the people who talk about new technologies are not as interested as they could be, and it’s important to make sure that’s the case.”
The cost and efficiency of the project are key considerations.
In the case of ammonia, there is significant investment into ensuring its transport from its production site to storage sites in the UK and around the world – a major problem for the industry in which the gas is currently a byproduct of the fertiliser industry.
The plant is designed to store the ammonia in the same giant concrete cylinders that it feeds into.
The plant will be capable of storing up to 120 million