Ammonia energy is now a talking point for CEOs

Chief executives of major corporations are now talking about ammonia energy. This represents another crucial step up the learning curve for clean industry: knowledge about ammonia’s potential has successfully spread from the R&D department to the executive suite. This is the difference between development and deployment.

The fertilizer industry saw this shift in 2018, when the CEOs of first movers like Yara and OCP announced green ammonia pilot plants. These latest announcements come, however, from the shipping and power sectors — far bigger industries, with no existing ammonia business — and they focus on the use of green ammonia: for fuel and for profit.

Ammonia in the shipping sector

On Monday, Yukikazu Myochin, the CEO of Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (K Line), gave his new year speech. K Line is “one of the world’s keenest users of LNG as a fuel” (according to Splash 247), and his message is important because it articulates a new strategy within the shipping industry, from LNG to “LNG+.”

We cannot reach IMO’s 2030 targets by simply switching diesel oil to LNG fuel; on top of that, we must continue to study new technologies as “LNG +”, such as the self-flying energy kites announced last year that utilize wind power. Furthermore, in order to reach our 2050 goals, we will accelerate research in alternative fuels such as ammonia, and methanation fuels in addition to hydrogen.

Yukikazu Myochin, K Line President and CEO, 2020 New Year Message from the President, January 2020

Ammonia in the power sector

Ken Kawai, the CEO of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) described 2020 as the year to “push for fuel conversion,” with specific mention of ammonia co-firing with coal in thermal boilers — a technology that we have written about many times. This allows an existing coal-burning power plant to replace some of its fuel with carbon-free ammonia (up to 20% has been demonstrated), delivering immediate GHG emission reductions and thus extending the economic life of a coal-fired asset in a carbon-constrained jurisdiction.

This year, a prime focus will be on developing business toward achieving decarbonization … We view these times as a business opportunity, and we aim to be a global leader in addressing decarbonization. Last year, orders for GTCC [gas turbine combined cycle] installations were strong, and this year we expect further growth. In the area of steam power, we will actively work to improve the performance of existing boilers, push for fuel conversion including biomass and ammonia co-firing, and promote replacements to GTCC and IGCC [integrated coal gasification combined cycle] systems …

These new business developments cannot be achieved using the same methods as before. The roles of each business segment must be clarified, more segments must cooperate together, and new challenges must be addressed.

MHPS announcement, MHPS President Kawai Delivers New Year Message to Employees for 2020, January 2020

Kawai continues, declaring that “we will make great use of MHI’s technologies and resources, to accelerate business potential in hydrogen firing” (MHI is one of MHPS’s two parent companies). This relates to another ammonia energy angle that we’ve reported previously, regarding MHPS’s “technology to extract hydrogen from ammonia,” which would support the business case for hydrogen gas turbines due to ammonia’s ease “to store and transport.”

It is not surprising that these two examples come from Japan, although Japanese CEOs are not the only ones talking about ammonia energy. Deftly supported by the Green Ammonia Consortium, ammonia energy has reached the top in Japan.

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John Hopmans

Co-firing coal and ammonia?? As you write the purpose is to extend the life of the coal plant. What about the air pollution?
It makes more sense to co-fire ammonia and natural gas. Later you can replace the nat gas by biogas or green methane.

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Environmentally, it does make more sense to co-fire NG and ammonia.
However, coal is widely utilized in Japan, and i bet that the combination of cheap coal from nearby China along with the high cap cost to build new plants means it is more economical for coal-fired power plants in Japan to utilize coal/ammonia co-firing to reduce the GHG footprint of their plants than to transition to NG.
A move to pure/bulk ammonia firing plants is likely inevitable in the long term, but it is probably more economically sound for these companies to stave off this transition in the meantime.