Ammonia’s Role in Japan’s Energy Plan

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — Ammonia technology has been earmarked for a significant role in Japan’s green energy plans, a fact underlined by a new deal reached with state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).

Japan is planning to adopt ammonia use for power generation under its 2050 decarbonization strategy, which was released last month. According to the outline, the government foresees that 10% of all power generation in the country will be produced by hydrogen and ammonia within thirty years.

Currently, these technologies do not produce any of Japan’s industrial or commercial power.

In this connection, last week the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and ADNOC signed a cooperation deal to accelerate joint development of commercially-feasible ammonia fuel technology. METI has a plan to start testing co-firing of ammonia at a commercial coal-fired power generation unit during FY2021, aiming to achieve a 20% co-firing rate. It will also develop ammonia-fired gas turbine technology.

Aside from the ADNOC deal, some private companies and the governmental Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) are getting in on the act, having last month launched a feasibility study to develop an ammonia supply chain in Russian Siberia.

Ammonia, a compound consisting of three parts hydrogen and one part nitrogen, contains about 18% hydrogen by weight, and it releases zero carbon emissions when combusted in a thermal power plant.

The drawback of ammonia fuel as a climate change tool is similar to the problem of hydrogen fuel: While it produces no carbon emissions when combusted as fuel, the process of making the fuel itself requires a great deal of energy which is currently supplied mainly by fossil fuels, thus undermining the potential benefits for the environment.

However, efforts are underway to create supply chains to produce “blue ammonia,” created with less polluting natural gas, and ultimately “green ammonia,” in which all stages of the process are linked to renewable energy sources.

Currently, Japan is prioritizing the development its supply chain for blue ammonia and not green ammonia due to the financial costs involved. Last September, Japan imported the world’s first shipment of blue ammonia from Saudi Arabia.

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