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MIT grads create new type of fuel from common household cleaning chemicals: 'An ideal and accessible alternative'

"Ammonia presents a clear path to a zero-carbon fuel."


Photo Credit: @amogyinc / Instagram

Ammonia-based fuel company Amogy, founded just three years ago by four MIT Ph.D. graduates, has successfully tested a zero-emissions semi-truck powered entirely by sustainable ammonia fuel.

According to Amogy's January press release, the retrofitted 2018 Freightliner Cascadia truck was tested for "several hours" on the campus of New York's Stony Brook University. After eight minutes of fueling, the truck accumulated 900 kilowatt hours of total stored net electric energy thanks to Amogy's proprietary ammonia-to-power technology

The company created a video of the test, which can be seen here.

Ammonia, an abundant nitrogen-hydrogen compound that occurs in nature and can be man-made, has several properties that make it a promising base for green fuel. It does not produce carbon pollution when burned, as it does not contain any carbon. It is also easy to store and transport, and its only byproducts are water and nitrogen. 

"Ammonia presents a clear path to a zero-carbon fuel value chain across all heavy-duty transportation sectors thanks to existing transportation and storage infrastructure," Amogy wrote in its press release. "A global commodity, 200 million tons of ammonia are already produced and transported each year, making it an ideal and accessible alternative fuel."

If ammonia can be harnessed to reliably power large trucks, the environmental benefits could be huge. In 2020, medium and heavy-sized trucks accounted for 22% of the world's transportation pollution, producing over 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide. While electric passenger cars are being widely adopted, the problem of pollution from trucks continues to vex environmental advocates.

Amogy, headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, is one of many corporations pioneering sustainable ammonia fuel technology. Along with over 100 other companies, Amogy is a member of the Ammonia Energy Association (AEA), a trade group that "promotes the responsible use of ammonia in a sustainable energy economy." 

Fellow AEA member Starfire Energy, which raised $24 million to explore carbon-free ammonia production in 2022, won the Emerging Cleantech Company award from the Colorado Cleantech Industries Association, while other AEA members like GenCell Energy have received millions of dollars in grants. 

Companies outside of the association are getting in on the act, too: Ontario-based Hydrofuel Canada, which calls itself "the world's leading developer of ammonia fuel and energy technologies," has partnered with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology to produce reports on ammonia-based fuels for the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia.

"Ammonia as a sustainable fuel can be used in all types of combustion engines, gas

turbines, burners with only small modifications and directly in fuel cells which is a very

important advantage compared to other type(s) of fuels," reads one of Hydrofuel Canada's reports. "Compared to gasoline vehicles, ammonia-fueled vehicles do not produce direct CO2 emission during operation."

Amogy, for its part, is not stopping with ammonia-powered trucks. The company has plans to test out an ammonia-powered tugboat later this year while continuing work on an inland barge retrofit project with shipping company Southern Devall.

"With several successful technology demonstrations completed and a dual presence in the U.S. and in Europe," the company said in a press release, "Amogy is making solid progress toward its goal of reducing more than 5 billion metric tons [5.5 billion U.S. tons] of [carbon dioxide equivalent] emission by 2040."

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