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Administration Herøya Industripark AS

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Hydrovegen 55, 3936 Porsgrunn, Norway

Yara and NEL are building a pilot plant at Herøya to focus on clean hydrogen and green fertiliser

Odd-Arne Lorentsen og Gaute Finstad viser frem gjødsel

Pilot plant at Herøya: “Here at the ammonia factory in Porsgrunn – together with NEL Hydrogen Electrolyser – Yara is planning to build a pilot plant for the production of hydrogen based solely on renewable energy from water, sun and wind,” say, on the left, Odd-Arne Lorentsen, head of research at Yara Technology Center, and Gaute Finstad, technical project manager of “Green Fertiliser”.

At Herøya, together with Norwegian NEL Hydrogen Electrolyser, Yara is now investigating a project to recover hydrogen from renewable energy, in order to produce “greener fertiliser”.

The plan is to build a plant at Yara Porsgrunn’s ammonia factory at Herøya in order to recover hydrogen from renewable energy sources that are based on water, sun and wind. The project is supported by the Research Council of Norway, Innovation Norway, and ENOVA under the PILOT-E  scheme.

Decarbonising Yara’s production

Fertiliser giant Yara is involved in several projects to reduce the costs of producing hydrogen from renewable energy sources. The latest news is the cooperation between Yara and NEL, writes E24/energi.

Yara’s vision is to use our products to help to feed the world's population on a sustainable and environmentally beneficial basis, and the strategy is to reduce Yara's climate footprint,” says Odd-Arne Lorentsen, head of research of Yara at Herøya Research Park. Today's factories are based on fossil fuels. “But now, ‘green’ hydrogen technology is rapidly being developed worldwide, and two factors in particular make this especially interesting. Access to renewable energy is increasing, and prices have fallen significantly in recent years,” says Lorentsen. 

Making fertiliser from air, water, wind and sun

Lorentsen describes the brainstorming process in the research department that resulted in the electrolyser project with NEL.

“All of our fertiliser products are based on ammonia, which consists of hydrogen and nitrogen. I therefore gathered some of our best talent in a team, in order to come up with some good ideas to solve: How to make fertiliser just by using air (nitrogen), water (hydrogen and renewable power), sun, wind and stone. The solution also had to be sustainable, energy-effective and commercially viable over 10-20 years.”

“As a technology expert, it was a ‘bit disappointing’ that we had to go back in time and retrieve ‘old’ technology as the most promising. We found the electrolyser that we (Hydro and Yara) used right up to 1991 at Yara's factory in Glomfjord, after which the electrolysers were outrun by fossil energy, access and low prices. Conditions have now changed, however, and electrolysis-based hydrogen technology is expected to become competitive in a few years’ time, assuming favourable prices for renewable power.”

Now, NEL Hydrogen Electrolyser is to develop the electrolyser technology for water-based hydrogen production adapted to the use of various renewable energy sources from water, wind and sun, and to test this technology together with Yara.

Fantastic support scheme to build a new generation of factories

Lorentsen commends the PILOT-E scheme that provides financing for Norwegian business and industry.

“The main task of the research centre is to develop solutions for a whole new generation of factories, and PILOT-E is a fantastic support scheme backed by the Research Council of Norway, Innovation Norway, and ENOVA. It is particularly good because it includes the entire process, from research and development, to launch in the market.”

Building electrolysers – connecting them to the factory

What are the check points going forward?

“The first big hurdle for NEL is to develop the flexible 5-MW high-pressure electrolyser, and for Yara to define all the infrastructure and connection to the existing ammonia factory that is necessary to operate the new technology,” says technical project manager Gaute Finstad. “We will then commence a testing and learning period in order to prove that the technology works. Then Yara has to find out how to put this to most effective use in fertiliser production.”

Herøya as a test site

“It's interesting to use Porsgrunn and Herøya as a test site because we have all the expertise needed, including R&D and all technical aspects and infrastructure. We can connect test operations directly to the ammonia factory and also reproduce conditions elsewhere. Here, we can simulate all renewable energy sources such as water, sun and wind,” the project manager explains.

When do you expect the technology to be fully tested? 

“We expect to start up pilot runs at the ammonia factory in 2022,” says Finstad. “The foundations and infrastructure are already in place, so that we can be up and running more quickly and less expensively than if we were to build up everything from scratch.”

Building factories to handle “wind and weather”

What is the biggest challenge?

“Renewable energy means that we need more complex factories to tackle shifts in ‘wind and weather’ conditions,” according to the green fertiliser duo.

Odd-Arne Lorentsen og Gaute Finstad

Selling green fertiliser worldwide.

“We’re good at running factories in stable conditions. It will be a more demanding task to operate factories independently of the variations in energy input due to wind and weather conditions. Part of the job is to learn how to make production more flexible towards this variable energy access, and how to design factory facilities in a variable regime,” they say.

Selling worldwide is the aim

“The aim is to produce fertiliser from renewable energy at a price that we can sell at worldwide,” says Lorentsen. “We’ve developed a technical and financial model to design efficient production on new terms, but we also rely on identifying the customer segment interested in buying our CO₂-free mineral fertiliser.”

About “Green fertiliser”


Develop technology for emission-free fertiliser production. Build the next-generation factory, 2030.


NEL: Leading producer of electrolysers for water-based production of hydrogen for the transport sector and industry.


SINTEF: Leading research institute in Norway.


Eletrolyser technology, water-based production of hydrogen using renewable energy sources from water, wind and sun, combined with classical ammonia technology.


Modernising the technology, with full process and digital integration to optimise the entire production chain from the raw material, via ammonia and nitric acid, to full fertiliser quality, is a key to success.


Yara stands for the largest share of the financing, but also receives significant combined financing from the Research Council of Norway, Innovation Norway and ENOVA via the Pilot E scheme. The aim of the scheme is for completely new products and services within ecofriendly energy technology to be developed more quickly and put to use in order to contribute to cutting emissions both in Norway and internationally. PILOT-E follows up operators throughout the technology development process – from idea to market.


Development of the new electrolyser will be completed for delivery from NEL to Yara in 2022. Yara’s research centre is also working with a more ecofriendly nitric acid concept, but it will take a few more years before large-scale testing can take place.


Yara's technology and project organisation has plans to design and build an infrastructure for delivery of hydrogen from NEL's electrolysers to the ammonia factory at Herøya. NEL delivers the electrolyser, while Yara's factory personnel, together with the research unit, will operate and test various operational conditions for the electrolyser, and how it can be integrated into the the ammonia factory.


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