Category: Commercial Technologies

Renewable Hydrogen in Fukushima and a Bridge to the Future

On August 1, 2017 the Japan Government’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) announced that it will proceed with funding for the construction of a hydrogen production plant in Namie Township, about ten kilometers from the site of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.  The project’s budget is not mentioned, but the installation is projected to be “the largest scale in the world” -- in other words, a real bridge to the future and not a demonstration project. 

The project no doubt has a variety of motivations, not least the symbolic value of a renewable hydrogen plant rising in the shadow of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station.  In economic terms, though, it appears to be a dead end.  This is unfortunate because a similarly conceived project based on ammonia could be a true bridge-building step that aligns with leading-edge developments elsewhere in the world.

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Advances in Ammonia-Fired Gas Turbines Open Up Major Use Case

In the last 12 months ...
Researchers seeking to fire gas turbines with ammonia made significant strides toward realization of commercial-scale machines in both the U.K. and Japan. This means that electricity generation has become a realistic near-term use-case for ammonia energy.

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Overcoming the Selectivity Challenge in Electrochemical Ammonia Synthesis

In the last 12 months ...
The research community has made great progress toward solving the "selectivity challenge" in electrochemical ammonia synthesis. Although, rather than an actual solution, mostly what we have is a range of sophisticated work-arounds that succeed in making this problem moot.

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Ammonia plant cost comparisons: Natural gas, Coal, or Electrolysis?

A recent feasibility study compares the costs of building and operating a new ammonia plant using one of three technologies: natural gas, coal, or electrolysis.

Unsurprisingly, natural gas is the most competitive today. However, it might surprise you how closely competitive electrolysis has become.

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On the Ground in Japan: Residential Fuel Cells

Last week Kaden Watch, a Japanese Web site for appliance news, reported that Tokyo Gas had delivered its 80,000th Ene Farm residential fuel cell system. This small news item, delivered by a niche media outlet, lifts a critical corner of the decidedly “big-tent” story of Japan’s strategy to develop a hydrogen-based energy economy. How the Ene Farm topic develops is likely to be a major factor in Japan’s ability to sustain its hydrogen vision -- and possibly a determinant of the role ammonia could play within it.

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On the Ground in Japan: LH2 and MCH Hydrogen Fueling Stations

While Japan’s Cross-Ministerial Strategic Innovation Promotion Program (SIP) continues to evaluate liquid hydrogen (LH2), methylcyclohexane (MCH), and ammonia as hydrogen energy carriers, Japanese press reports show that the backers of liquid hydrogen and MCH are building an early lead over ammonia with hydrogen fueling stations based on their favored commodities.

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Industrial demonstrations of ammonia fuel in Japan

Most of the ammonia energy projects I write about are in the research and development phase but, as I've said before, technology transfer from the academic lab to commercial deployment is moving swiftly - especially in Japan.

Last week, Nikkei Asian Review published two articles outlining plans by major engineering and power firms to build utility-scale demonstrations using ammonia as a fuel for electricity generation. Both projects aim to reduce the carbon intensity of the Japanese electrical grid, incrementally but significantly, by displacing a portion of the fossil fuels with ammonia. The first project will generate power using an ammonia-coal mix, while the second will combine ammonia with natural gas.

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