Spanish green energy giant Iberdrola is to build a €750m ($808m) renewable hydrogen plant in Southern Europe, to produce up to 100,000 tonnes of green ammonia — after signing a framework agreement with the world’s largest seaborne trader of ammonia, Trammo.

Hydrogen: hype, hope and the hard truths around its role in the energy transition
Will hydrogen be the skeleton key to unlock a carbon-neutral world? Subscribe to the weekly Hydrogen Insight newsletter and get the evidence-based market insight you need for this rapidly evolving global market

The US company will buy the entire output from the facility — which will party financed by “European funding” — with plans to sell a large part of it in Northern Europe.

Iberdrola is not saying which country the project — which will be powered by 500MW of new renewable energy — will be built in, telling Hydrogen Insight that “the plant location details will be confirmed in the near future”.

“This project aims to kickstart the European green hydrogen corridor,” the company said in a statement. “Southern Europe has a large renewable potential that allows it to supply competitive green energy to decarbonize the various energy-intensive heavy industry all across the continent such as the Netherlands, Germany or France.”

Iberdrola already operates Europe’s largest green hydrogen project — the 20MW Puertollano plant in Spain — and is developing more than 60 H2 facilities in eight countries, including the US and Australia.

Trammo has also signed a deal with Canadian developer Teal to buy 800,000 tonnes of green ammonia a year from a hydropower-based project in Quebec, Canada, which is believed to be the largest green hydrogen-based offtake contract ever signed.

“When you bring together one of the world's largest renewable energy developers and the world's largest seaborne trader of anhydrous ammonia, innovative projects like this can quickly become viable,” said Millán García-Tola, Iberdrola's global head of green hydrogen.

“For the past year, we have been operating Europe's largest green hydrogen plant, which gives us the experience and understanding of the processes and technology to scale-up quickly to these larger projects.”

Green ammonia can be used to decarbonise existing uses, such as fertilizer and chemical production, and can also be used directly as a marine fuel. Some countries, including Germany, are considering importing ammonia (NH3) and cracking it back into hydrogen and nitrogen — a fairly expensive process that requires large amounts of energy.

Ammonia is generally considered a more useful method of transporting hydrogen than compressed or liquefied H2, because it actually contains more hydrogen by volume than the purer forms, and is easier to store.

Liquid H2 must be kept at temperatures of below minus 259°C and contains 70kg of hydrogen per cubic metre, while ammonia becomes a liquid when compressed under fairly low pressures, and contains 107.3kg of H2 per cubic metre. Compressed hydrogen at a pressure of 700 bar contains 42kg of H2 per cubic metre.