Category: Japan

Toyota Supports H2 Society Roll-Out on Its Home Turf; and Sees a Role for NH3

Toyota Motor Corporation announced on April 25 the launch of an effort called the Chita City and Toyota City Renewable Energy-Use Low-Carbon Hydrogen Project.  According to the company’s press release, the project is intended as a step toward “the realization of a hydrogen-based society spanning the entire region through mutual coordination and all-inclusive efforts.” 

For ammonia energy advocates, the announcement had two elements of particular significance. First is the clear indication that Toyota Motor Corporation is embracing ammonia as a hydrogen carrier – although not as a motor fuel.  Second is the project’s stated intention to establish a “system in which Aichi Prefecture certifies low-carbon hydrogen objectively and fairly.”

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Ammonia-to-Hydrogen Seen for Electricity Generation

Approximately 40% of the world’s energy budget is consumed in the generation of electricity.  This is by far the largest use of primary energy across major energy-consuming sectors (transportation, industry, etc.).  What role ammonia will play in the electricity sector is therefore a question of considerable importance for the sustainable energy system of the future.  One concept currently on the table is power-to-ammonia as a means of electricity storage, whereby electricity is used to produce hydrogen and the hydrogen is reacted with nitrogen to produce ammonia.  The other, mirror-image, concept is to use ammonia, or hydrogen derived from ammonia, as a fuel that can be turned into electricity.

This “back-end” use case is the focus of recent announcements from Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS).  According to an April 5 story in the Nikkei Sangyo, MHPS plans to put a “hydrogen-dedicated gas turbine . . . into practical use by 2030.”  The company also stated that it has “started developing technology to extract hydrogen from ammonia,” citing ammonia’s ease “to store and transport.”

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IHI First to Reach 20% Ammonia-Coal Co-Firing Milestone

The Japanese manufacturer IHI Corporation announced on March 28 that it had successfully demonstrated the co-firing of ammonia and coal in a fuel mix composed of 20% ammonia. Ammonia-coal co-firing had previously been demonstrated by Chugoku Electric in a fuel mix composed of just 0.6-0.8% ammonia.

IHI says its ultimate goal is to “construct a value chain that connects the production and use of ammonia, using combustion technology of gas turbines and coal-fired boilers, using ammonia as fuel.”

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On the Ground in Japan: Hydrogen Activity Accelerates

A recent Ammonia Energy post mentioned that in December 2017 “the Japanese government . . . approved an updated hydrogen strategy which appears to give ammonia the inside track in the race against liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid organic hydride (LOH) energy carrier systems.”  While this news is positive, the hydrogen strategy remains the essential context for economic implementation of ammonia energy technologies in Japan; ammonia’s prospects are only as bright as those of hydrogen.  This is why Ammonia Energy asks from time to time, how is hydrogen faring in Japan?

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Japan, Saudi Arabia Explore Trade in Hydrogen, Ammonia

Japan and Saudi Arabia are together exploring the possibility of extracting hydrogen from Saudi crude oil so that it can be transported to Japan in the form of ammonia.

According to a synopsis of the planned effort, “one option for Japan’s material contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions [would be] a supply chain for carbon-free hydrogen and ammonia produced through CCS from Saudi Arabian fossil fuels.”  The synopsis emerged from a September 2017 workshop sponsored by Saudi Aramco and the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ). 

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IHI Commits to Ammonia Energy. Big Time.

During his presentation at the November 2017 NH3 Energy + Topical Conference, Shogo Onishi of IHI Corporation described the progress made by IHI and Tohoku University in limiting NOx emissions from ammonia-fired gas turbines (AGTs).  Regular attendees of the annual NH3 Fuel Conference identify IHI with its work on AGTs since the company also addressed this topic at the 2016 and 2015 events.  However, a scan of published materials shows that AGTs are just one aspect of IHI’s activity in the ammonia energy arena.  In fact, IHI is also looking at the near-term commercialization of technologies in ammonia-coal co-firing in steam boilers and direct ammonia fuel cells.  This level and breadth of commitment to ammonia energy is unique among global capital goods producers.

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Ammonia Positioned for Key Role in Japan’s New Hydrogen Strategy

The Japanese government has approved an updated hydrogen strategy which appears to give ammonia the inside track in the race against liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid organic hydride (LOH) energy carrier systems. The announcement was made on December 26, 2017, by the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE), the lead agency on energy policy within the Ministry of Energy, Trade, and Industry (METI).

Perhaps the most important indicator of ammonia’s positioning as the lead energy carrier can be seen in the development timelines that are assigned to each energy carrier. The Strategy calls for “CO2-free ammonia” to come into use “by the mid-2020s.”

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Green Ammonia Consortium Comes to the Fore in Japan

On December 8, the Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun ran a story about the future of coal-fired electricity generation in Japan.  The story touched on topics ranging from the plumbing in a Chugoku Electric generating station to the Trump administration’s idiosyncratic approach to environmental diplomacy.  And it contained this sentence: “Ammonia can become a ‘savior’ of coal-fired power.”

Clearly an explanation is in order.

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254th ACS Meeting, Energy and Fuels Symposium “The Ammonia Economy” – Oxidation, Catalytic Cracking & Storage

In August of 2017 a symposium on the Ammonia Economy was held in Washington DC as part of the Energy and Fuels Division of the American Chemical Society (ACS) conference. The symposium was devised to explore the latest results from ammonia related research, including but not limited to; advances in the generation of ammonia, advances in the catalytic cracking of ammonia to nitrogen and hydrogen, ammonia storage and utilisation, detectors and sensors for ammonia, ammonia fuel cells and hydrogen from ammonia, ammonia combustion and ammonia safety.

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254th ACS Meeting, Energy and Fuels Symposium “The Ammonia Economy” – Synthesis, Utilization & Nitrogen Reduction

In late August, the day before the exciting solar eclipse, the Ammonia Economy symposium was held as part of the Energy and Fuels Division of the American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting in Washington DC. This marks the third gathering of Ammonia related research since 2015 at the national level ACS conference. This year, in addition to the important focus on chemistries for the utilization of ammonia, the rapidly developing field of homogeneous catalysts and biological processes for nitrogen fixation was included as a major theme.

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