Four Danish companies – Topsoe, Alfa Laval, Copenhagen Atomics, and Aalborg – are supporting a project to use small modular reactors (SMRs) to produce energy for ammonia production by Indonesia companies Pupuk Kaltim along with Pertamina New & Renewable Energy. The agreement was signed in Copenhagen at Topsoe HQ in Lyngby, Denmark, and all participating companies were present, as well as officials from the Indonesian embassy.

The nuclear power plant will be capable of producing 1 GWe from 25 SMRs supplied by Copenhagen Atomics. The facility will be located in Bontang on the eastern coast of the island of Borneo, in the province of East Kalimantan. Under the agreement it will be operational for at least 50 years and is expected to come online by 2028. The companies say it will reduce emissions by 1.7m tonnes of carbon dioxide compared with traditional natural gas fertiliser production, the companies said.

The Indonesian project is expected to cost around $4bn and will be among the first to use Copenhagen Atomics’ modular molten salt thorium reactors. During the plant's lifetime, it could produce ammonia worth $25bn at today's prices. "In the next six months, the final examinations must be completed and the legal landscape in Indonesia should be fully mapped," Copenhagen Atomics said.

Copenhagen Atomics, founded in 2014, develops and plans to mass manufacture thorium molten salt reactors. The company plans to finance, build, own and operate the nuclear power plants, with each assembly line planned to make one nuclear reactor unit every day.

Copenhagen Atomics molten salt reactor (MSR) is one of 13 MSRs described in detail in the International Atomic Energy’s comprehensive publication on Advances in Small Modular Reactor Technology Developments published in 2022. It is one of only two that have reached the detailed design stage. IAEA describes it as an autonomous small single module 100 MWt heavy water moderated, fluoride salt based, thermal spectrum, molten salt reactor the size of a 40 feet shipping container.

IAEA says Copenhagen Atomics has started licensing for production of multi digit tonnes of thorium and natural uranium for testing of non-fission prototype reactors and is interacting with nuclear safety authorities on testing of a 1MW prototype reactor. However, it adds that Copenhagen Atomics “does not intend to engage in a commercial licensing process for a 100MWt reactor before a prototype reactor has been tested”.

In 2019, the company was awarded two Danish research grants and started collaboration with Alfa Laval. The following year saw the first public funding round and first fertile salt test. In 2022, a non-fission prototype of a 1MWt demonstration reactor was completed. According to the companies “milestones”, 2025 should see the first test of a 1 MWt demonstration reactor, with the first test of a 100 MWt commercial reactor planned for 2028.

Denmark-based Topsoe,?founded in 1940, is a leading global developer and supplier of decarbonization technology, catalysts, and services for the energy transition. Topsoe will supply a newly developed electrolysis cell technology – Solid Oxide Electrolyser Cell (SOEC) – to the facility, in addition to ammonia synthesis. The technology will make the production of hydrogen up to 30% more efficient and cost-effective, the company said.

Alfa Laval specialises in heat transfer, centrifugal separation and fluid handling, and is active in the areas of Energy, Marine, and Food & Water. It will supply heat exchangers to the plant, which will optimise energy and desalination to produce pure water for the electrolysis process.

Aalborg CSP A/S is a leading developer and supplier of innovative, renewable electrical and thermal energy technologies. The company designs and supplies green solutions and integrated energy systems based on renewable energy. It is designing thermal energy storage systems, using molten salt-based steam boilers needed to integrate energy production from the SMRs with electricity and waste heat from turbines.

The companies said the ammonia from the plant also can potentially produce a carbon-free marine fuel, which could help with net-zero goals in the shipping industry, especially as Indonesia is on major trade routes. Low-emission ammonia could also help to reduce agriculture emissions from more sustainable fertilisers. The cleaner fuel production could lead to demand for similar facilities in other locations.

Rahmad Pribadi, President Director of Pupuk Kaltim (PKT) said the joint study is an essential step towards achieving sustainability goals. “As consumers increasingly prefer sustainable and eco-friendly products, PKT is proud to be at the forefront of this movement."

PKT intends to find a feasible process to produce ammonia without using hydrocarbon based raw materials.

Nikolaj Knudsen, Head of Business Development Power-to-X, Topsoe said this is a very promising and progressive project.

Pertamina NRE CEO Dannif Danusaputro said the collaboration could accelerate energy transition and help Indonesia to achieve net zero emissions by 2060.

Karin Forsberg, President, Business Unit Energy Separation at Alfal Laval, said: “To build a functioning hydrogen ecosystem and truly accelerate decarbonisation, it's crucial to have a systemic approach already from the beginning. Using recovered heat from electrolyser cooling to generate the demineralised water needed for hydrogen production, is a natural step to high efficiency for the entire system."

Peter Badstue Jensen, Executive Vice President and Partner at Aalborg CSP said the company would use its experience of development and supply of advanced technologies for generation of steam and power, integrated with large Thermal Energy Storages, based solely on renewable energy.

Pupuk Kaltim is one of the largest urea and fertiliser producers in Asia. It has 13 factories including five ammonia plants, five urea plants and three fertiliser plants with supporting facilities. Pertamina New & Renewable Energy is a subsidiary of PT Pertamina (Persero) and designated as a sub-holding of Power & NRE (PNRE) which has business activities in low carbon solutions and the renewable energy.

Image (left): Signing of the MoU in Copenhagen (courtesy of Copenhagen Atomics)

Image (right): Rendering of a 1 GW plant based on Copenhagen Atomics' molten salt reactor (courtesy of UK Atomics)

Date: Wednesday, 24 May 2023
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