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Interview with Joel Moser, CEO, First Ammonia 

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Please introduce yourself and First Ammonia?

I'm the CEO of First Ammonia, and we are a company dedicated to the production of green ammonia. We will be developing what we believe will be among the very first commercial-scale green ammonia projects. We have a plan to deploy 5 gigawatts of solid oxide electrolyzer cells in our partnership with Topsoe over the coming years, so it is our plan and objective to be among the largest producers of green ammonia in the world.

A wave of zero- and low-emission projects, totalling tens of billions, has been announced in the US. What do you see as the main challenges for these projects in reaching an FID?

The issuance of the 45V regulations under the Inflation Reduction Act is the single biggest challenge. When the Inflation Reduction Act came out, the world turned its attention to the US, including us – we were going to build our initial projects in Europe. We have sites on five continents, but we – as well as virtually all the major players – have turned to the US in order to take advantage of the production tax credit. The regulations haven't been issued, and we're all waiting for the regulations to come out. They're overdue by months, and frankly, that's the gating issue. The delay of the regulations has really put the entire global hydrogen industry on pause, so that's the main gating issue.

You recently announced an offtake agreement with Uniper for your flagship green ammonia project in Texas. Could you share more about how this significant milestone was achieved?

We've been working with Uniper over a year. And as is the case with everything we do and everything happening in this new industry, it's about collaboration and partnership. We are delighted with our partnership with Uniper, they are a quality partner. We have worked to understand each other's needs and objectives and are working together to make the production of our green ammonia at our flagship project in Texas a reality for both us and for Uniper and we anticipate and fully expect that partnership will go on beyond the initial project.

What industries / companies do you anticipate will be the main customers for zero- or low-emission ammonia? How do you see the market evolving over the next 10 years?

The current and immediate customers for zero-carbon ammonia are the chemical industries that currently use ammonia in their production process and therefore are achieving the low-carbon regulations and demands of their product with a green product. The primary market for low-carbon ammonia, which is essentially blue as opposed to green, is initially power generation in Asia, primarily Japan. So the market is green to Europe, primarily for the chemical industry and blue to Japan for power generation. We believe that the next big change in the market for green will be in 2026 when ammonia-fuelled vessels start to sail, so we see an increase in the demand for green for maritime fuels. And over the next 10 years, we truly believe that green will replace blue as the demands and expectations for carbon intensity increase and the production of green picks up from our facilities and the facilities of others. And the green ammonia will be used for power generation, for marine transportation as well as certain forms of land-based transportation as well as for the traditional uses. And we also do see that the existing primary market for ammonia, which today is for fertilizer, will start to move toward green as the agricultural industry starts to decarbonize its business models.

First Ammonia pioneers the use of modular, commercial scale plants that leverage solid oxide electrolyzer cell technology. What advantages does this offer in developing projects?

First, I must say that solid oxide electrolyzer cells - we call them SOECs - are the most efficient form of electrolyzer, use the least power and do not require rare earth metals. So, we believe that SOECs – particularly SOECs produced by our partner Topsoe – will be the dominant player in the market. The point of modular commercial-scale plants is as follows: in the same way that in power generation, there is a market for distributed generation, we believe that the market for green hydrogen and derivative production will be distributed production. Why do I say that? Green hydrogen and derivative production can be and should be synergistic with the development of renewable power. It should take advantage of points on the grid and times of the day when there's excess renewable power. And so rather than large, massive industrial-scale hydrogen production, we believe the future of hydrogen and hydrogen-derivative production is distributed. So that's why distributed production, which is why we have led with a modular plant, which we can drop anywhere in the world. We can put in several in a row to increase capacity, but it can all be scaled depending upon the nodes of power generation where there is excess power.

Could you share an update on the current status of your US-based projects? How are things progressing? What are the upcoming key milestones?

Yes, our first flagship project in Victoria's going well. We're delighted with our local partners, the Port of Victoria and the Victoria Economic Development Corporation. We will break ground in 2024 and we expect to be producing green ammonia in Victoria by 2026.

Successfully pioneering new and innovative technologies, designs and ways of working can rarely be achieved in isolation. Can you discuss the importance of partnerships in building new facilities?

Absolutely. This is an industry that it has got to be about collaboration. So our first collaboration is with Topsoe, the Danish engineering firm, which is our partner not only in the SOEC technology, but also in our ammonia technology. And we cannot be where we are today were we not partnered and working collaboratively with Topsoe. The same thing about Uniper – it is collaboration. This is a new market and there are changes constantly. There's new information, it evolves and the markets are changing, so to succeed, it requires collaboration. And that is how we approach every one of our commercial relationships.

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