Japan eyes ammonia for power plants

Japan is currently a massive coal burning nation looking for alternatives such as ammonia.

Japan is furnishing $500 million to much-watched projects that will develop and demonstrate 100% fuel ammonia combustion technology for gas turbines and 50% co-firing at coal boilers, as part of an effort to build out the nation’s supply chain for fuel ammonia.

The country’s national research agency New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) on Jan. 7 announced the funding under the Green Innovation Fund. One aspect of the 10-year “Fuel Ammonia Supply Chain Construction Project” will seek to tamp down ammonia production costs to the range hydrogen in terms of calorific value) by 2030. The grant will also develop burner technology to enable high co-firing and dedicated combustion for power generation. They aim to solve the technical issues for expanding and popularizing the use of fuel ammonia and build a fuel ammonia supply chain.

The initiative is rooted in Japan’s October 2020-announced ambitions to become carbon neutral in 2050. While the country heavily depends on coal and liquefied natural gas fuel for power generation, it intends to boost electrification; ramp up its use of hydrogen, methanation, synthesis fuel, and biomass; and decarbonize its coal and gas fleets. Current targets require that 10% of Japan’s electricity by 2050 and at least 1% (around 1 GW) by 2030 will come from hydrogen or ammonia.


There is global interest in ammonia’s future role in the power sector for decarbonization. Countries with limited direct access to sources of low-carbon power could use ammonia as a vector for hydrogen imports, because ammonia has a high hydrogen content per unit volume, and it can be easily liquefied. Ammonia can also be cracked to yield pure hydrogen for use in gas turbines, but it can also be combusted, directly fed into or co-fired at existing coal plants or gas turbines. Finally, like hydrogen, it can also be used as a seasonal storage medium for the power sector, offering a potentially cheaper alternative to batteries.



The initiative is rooted in Japan’s October 2020-announced ambitions to become carbon neutral in 2050.

Hey, this is serious stuff.

The strange truth about Japan’s climate change target
Japan has just raised its target for reducing carbon emissions from 26% to 46% (by 2030 from 2013 levels). But how was this figure arrived at, environment minister Shinjiro Koizumi was asked? Through a careful analysis of the threat and a realistic assessment of what could be achieved, taking all relevant factors into consideration? Well, er no, according to Koizumi, the number 46 just appeared to him in ‘silhouette’ in a sort of vision.

Shinjiro Koizumi, son of former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, made the comments in an interview with the TV station TBS last weekend. The interviewer, despite her face mask, was clearly stunned by the revelation that the country’s emission target did not appear to have any scientific basis. She asked the minister to confirm what he had said; and he did…

Prime minister Suga has not commented on his environment minister’s green-tinged epiphany, but he confirmed the 46% pledge at the 40-leader climate summit presided over by US president Joe Biden via Zoom last week.



When I worked in the oil refinery, the most dangerous liquid on site: ammonia.

Deadly stuff.

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Japan has just raised its target for reducing carbon emissions from 26% to 46% (by 2030 from 2013 levels)…according to Koizumi, the number 46 just appeared to him in ‘silhouette’ in a sort of vision.

And then there’s the cost.

Japan’s ambitious carbon target sparks bureaucratic panic
Taishi Sugiyama, research director at the Canon Institute for Global Studies, said the target was only achievable if Japan accepted a big hit to its economy. A 1 per cent reduction in emissions costs about ¥1tn ($9.1bn) a year, he said, so the 20 percentage point reduction would cost ¥20tn.

That would be equivalent to about 3.5% of gross domestic product, implying that the carbon target would soak up much of the improvement in living standards expected for Japan’s low-growth economy by 2030.



Another news item today reported that the ocean shipping industry is considering methanol made from captured CO2 and green hydrogen. Green methanol is e-methanol.

Same general considerations as ammonia. Similar process. Easy to store and transport. Toxic if ingested but when handled properly flammability is the greater risk.

Ocean shipping lines are under pressure to reduce use of bunker diesel fuel. Methanol or LNG are most attractive alternatives. Duel fuel ships are under construction. But methanol requirement is huge compared to amount available. Adoption require major investment (unless methanol from natural gas is used).

49.93% oxygen by wt implies reduced mileage (as is the case with ethanol in gasoline). Also lower wt 6.5 lb/gal vs 10 for diesel fuel implies less range per unit of volume.

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I have been seeing lots of news about international agreements being made to eliminate bunker diesel fuel from shipping.

I’m puzzled about the use of ammonia as fuel since it is generated from methane (natgas) by a high-pressure process. Why not just use the methane instead of turning it into ammonia first?

@pauleckler what do you think?

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At present most hydrogen is made from natural gas. Both ammonia and methanol are usually made that way. You can make green hydrogen by electrolysis of water. That its well with intermittant green electricity sources like solar or wind.

Green ammonia or methanol is possible but massive investment is needed to build the implied capacity. But if you have equipment designed to use green fuels, shortages can be covered with available ng based materials. Swaps can be used to facilitate distribution.

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The switch to green hydrogen is well under way. Besides curtailed wind and solar, nuclear power plants can also be used for green hydrogen. Green hydrogen can also be used for energy storage and when needed used for electrical power generation.

Many countries have excess wind, solar, hydro or nuclear power at times, and it has been increasing every year. Instead of curtailing this excess generation, it can be used for making green hydrogen.



A news story from Sunday…

Also from the link:
The formal ministerial-level cooperation agreements followed efforts at corporate levels, including the world’s first transport of a blue ammonia cargo in 2020 from Saudi Arabia to Japan to be used for power generation, with the CO2 capturing process designated for use in methanol production at SABIC’s Ibn-Sina facility, as well as capturing CO2 used for enhanced oil recovery at Saudi Aramco’s Uthmaniyah field.

Blue ammonia, green ammonia, someone recently posted a link about red hydrogen. Too many random colors assigned to these chemicals. I guess it makes a useful shorthand designation, if you already know what the conventions are.

  • Pete
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Green hydrogen is made by electrolysis of water using green electricity. Oxygen is a co-product.

Blue hydrogen is made from natural gas. Co-product carbon dioxide is captured and sequestered by storing underground often injected into oil wells to enhance oil recovery.

Brown hydrogen made from natural gas allows the CO2 to escape into the air. At ammonia plants the CO2 is usually captured and sold when possible. Carbonated beverages and dry ice are common markets. Some gets converted into derivatives like urea used as a fertilizer or in the glue that holds plywood or particle board together.