GCL Group, a Chinese solar panel manufacturer, aims to build an ammonia plant in Ethiopia using natural gas produced from fields it is developing under a partnership with the local government. GCL is diversifying its business by researching other energy sources and will also establish facilities capable of converting ammonia into 2.5 million tonnes of liquid hydrogen.

The company’s plans involve setting up a 4 million-tonne-per-year ammonia facility in Djibouti, with the output shipped overseas to be utilized in the production of liquid hydrogen. This technique is environmentally friendly since ammonia is easier to store and transport than hydrogen, which is a contender in some applications as an energy source.

In 2013, GCL signed an agreement with the Ethiopian government to develop two gas fields, Calub and Hilala, as well as to conduct exploration in eight blocks. The fields are estimated to produce 3.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year in the first phase, enough to allow the manufacture of 10 million tonnes of hydrogen per year for the next 40 years.

GCL did not specify the Ethiopian project’s investment or timescale but stated that it plans  to produce 700,000 tonnes of liquid hydrogen in the first phase. GCL began selling its solar station assets in 2018 and anticipates the process to be completed by early next year.

GCL also intends to create 400,000 tonnes of hydrogen production capacity in northwestern China using renewable energy sources, mostly solar power stations, by 2025. It intends to supply hydrogen to industrial users in northeast Asia, particularly steel mills.