Monolith Materials to build carbon-free ammonia plant

Article by Amanda Doyle

Monolith Materials
The Olive Creek Project in Nebraska.

CLEAN technology company Monolith Materials plans to build a large-scale carbon-free ammonia plant in Nebraska, US.

The new facility will be built at its Nebraska site, known as the Olive Creek Project. Olive Creek 1 (OC1) is currently being commissioned and is a commercial-scale emissions-free carbon black production facility. The new facility, OC2, will use hydrogen to produce ammonia without emissions.

The proprietary process uses renewable electricity to convert natural gas into carbon black and clean hydrogen via methane pyrolysis. Carbon black is an almost pure elemental carbon that can be used to make products such as batteries, plastics, inks, food packaging, and tyres, with the latter industry using 67% of the world’s carbon black. Carbon black is typically produced by burning decant oil and coal tar, which is a high emissions process. Monolith’s process doesn’t use oxygen during the production of carbon black, which means it doesn’t emit nitrogen oxides or sulfur oxides, and almost no CO2.

OC2 will then use the hydrogen produced during the carbon black process, and combine it with nitrogen from the air using the Haber-Bosch process. The resulting anhydrous ammonia can then be used to make nitrogen fertilisers. Ammonia production via conventional methods accounts for around 1% of global CO2 emissions.

The two facilities will produce a combined 194,000 t/y of carbon black when OC2 is completed, with OC2 producing 275,000 t/y of carbon-free anhydrous ammonia. Construction of OC2 is expected to begin in 2021.

Rob Hanson, CEO and Co-founder of Monolith, said: “Being able to produce one of the world’s most essential products in a way that is carbon-free is a significant step not only for our company, but for the industry and even society as a whole.”

Trevor Brown, Executive Director of the Ammonia Energy Association, said: “This is great news for 21st-century agriculture, where we face the challenge of decarbonising age-old processes at the same time as we must scale up production to keep pace with population growth. “We need to deploy every available technology to accelerate this energy transition and Monolith’s methane pyrolysis process has potential to deliver low-carbon ammonia in the right place at the right scale and at the right cost.”

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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