Heraeus invests in Japanese ammonia start-up firm

Heraeus invests in Japanese ammonia start-up firm

As the first foreign company, Germany-based technology group Heraeus says it has invested in the Japanese start-up Tsubame BHB.

This strategic decision underscores the commitment of the Heraeus Group to a sustainable and decarbonised future where ammonia will play an even more important role than today.

Tsubame BHB has been developing a new environmentally friendly and efficient technology for decentralised ammonia production, one of the most essential raw materials for the chemical industry. Ammonia is a pivotal building block for fertilisers, many different organic intermediates, plastics and synthetic fibres. Additionally, ammonia is heavily discussed as a future energy carrier in view of a hydrogen (H2) economy.

The Tsubame BHB technology is an excellent match for Heraeus and complements the company’s scouting of sustainable, precious metal-based technologies.

The innovative process is based on an electride catalyst and enables energy-savings and cost-effective ammonia production. This technology meets previously unmet needs in the ammonia market for local or “close-to-use” ammonia production, saving transportation cost and avoiding the risk of supply disruptions. The process is also suited to produce renewable ammonia from low-carbon H2 and, therefore, supports the decarbonisation of the ammonia value chain.

At the same time, Heraeus is expanding its presence in Japan through the partnership with Tsubame BHB.

“Heraeus has long established itself as a leader in innovation in the field of precious metal-based technologies. The Tsubame BHB technology fits perfectly with the Heraeus scouting criteria and supports our efforts to lead the development of cutting-edge sustainable technologies,” said Dr. Philipp Walter, Executive Vice President Business Line Hydrogen Systems at Heraeus. “The technology complements our already broad range of sustainable solutions and helps to strengthen our position in a market that is increasingly focused on energy efficiency and decarbonisation.”

“Japan is a market where innovation is born—especially in the area of advanced materials. As a globally leading material technology company, Heraeus sees great potential in a stronger collaboration with Japanese companies, universities and research institutes. Our investment in Tsubame BHB is a great example how Japanese and German companies can profit and grow together in future markets,” added Hideto Yamauchi, Representative Director/President of Heraeus K.K. in Japan.

Tsubame BHB, based in Yokohama, was founded in April 2017 with the goal of implementing the world’s first onsite ammonia synthesis system. Currently, ammonia on the market is produced using a technology invented 100 years ago that requires high temperature, high pressure and very large plants.

In contrast, Tsubame BHB is developing a technology for producing ammonia at low temperature and low pressure, making it possible to provide ammonia efficiently and at competitive prices also in small, decentralised facilities.

In this way, Tsubame BHB aims to strengthen the ammonia industry. The company is working to design a model plant for the mass production of ammonia, build a facility for operation and maintenance, and produce more versatile catalysts.