Efficient Hydrogen and Ammonia Production via Process Intensification and Integration

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OPEN 2018
Golden, Colorado
Project Term:
07/12/2019 - 10/11/2023

Critical Need:

Ammonia is the world’s highest-volume commodity chemical due to its use as a fertilizer to sustain rapidly growing population. Its synthesis consumes one-half of global hydrogen production, requires more energy, and emits more carbon dioxide than any other commodity chemical. DOE estimates that approximately 100 trillion BTUs of recoverable energy, valued at approximately $1 billion, are lost each year during ammonia production. Ammonia can also be used to store and transport hydrogen. However, there are technical challenges associated with the conversion, or cracking, of ammonia to produce a pure stream of hydrogen. Advances in membranes and catalysts are required to efficiently generate hydrogen from ammonia at higher conversion rates and lower costs.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

The Colorado School of Mines will develop a more efficient method for both the conversion of hydrogen and nitrogen to ammonia and the generation of high purity hydrogen from ammonia for fuel cell fueling stations. Composed of 17.6% hydrogen by mass, ammonia also has potential as a hydrogen carrier and carbon-free fuel. The team will develop a new technology to generate fuel cell-quality hydrogen from ammonia using a membrane based reactor. In addition, similar catalytic membrane reactor technology will be developed for synthesis of ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen at reduced pressure and temperature. This is aided by selective removal of ammonia, which enables equilibrium limitations to be surpassed, a fundamental constraint in conventional Haber-Bosch ammonia synthesis.

Potential Impact:

The proposed technology would serve as bridge to a renewable future, meeting demand while enabling major reductions in energy requirements and carbon footprint.


This project ensures that the U.S. maintains a technological lead in developing and deploying advanced energy technologies.


The proposed catalytic membrane reactor technology will integrate synthesis and purification to help recoup energy losses during ammonia production for a more efficient system. Generation of hydrogen for fuel cells will enable emission-free transportation.


This technology would enable distributed production of ammonia, reducing storage concerns and transportation costs.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Jack Lewnard
Project Contact:
Dr. Colin Wolden
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:

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