In March 2020, IHI Corporation, JERA Co., and Marubeni Corporation announced a feasibility study “to evaluate possible applications for the co-firing of ammonia in thermal power plants.” The Japanese companies have contracted with the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) to deliver detailed technical and economic analysis on the use of ammonia as a direct fuel for power generation. In addition, with support from Woodside Energy in Australia, they “will examine the construction and operation of world-scale ammonia facilities and the optimisation of supply chain costs” to support “large-scale export of hydrogen as ammonia.”
Only last week, we reported on Japan’s new International Resource Strategy published by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry), which explicitly called for demonstration projects “to promote the utilization of fuel ammonia,” as well as “feasibility studies for procurement in order to build the supply chain for fuel ammonia.” This announcement supports both of these areas, illustrating the speed and coordination of the Japanese effort to deploy commercial ammonia energy technologies.
The feasibility study is funded through NEDO, a Japanese agency that supports technology development and innovation. According to its website, the agency “plays an important role in Japan’s economic and industrialization policies … addressing energy and global environmental problems and enhancing industrial technology.”
(In related news, NEDO also announced last month the completion of the world’s largest-class renewable hydrogen production plant, the Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field (FH2R), which boasts a 10MW electrolyzer unit, producing up to 1,200 Nm3 per hour of “low-cost Green hydrogen.”)
The cost of this project was not disclosed. The timescale is short, however, running from March 2020 to February 2021. This contract delivers the “technical study necessary for a trial for direct usage of ammonia as a fuel source for existing thermal power plants.” In other words, following completion of the feasibility phase, the ammonia co-firing project can move into the demonstration (“trial”) phase.
IHI Corporation is already developing a broad portfolio of ammonia fuel technologies, including a solid oxide fuel cell, gas turbine, industrial boilers, and thermal power plants. Back in March 2018, IHI was the first to demonstrate coal co-firing with up to 20% ammonia at its combustion facility in Aioi City, and it has continued to develop its technology, with an particular focus on demonstrating that NOx emissions can be adequately controlled.
For this feasibility study, IHI’s role is described as follows:
Evaluation of thermal efficiency of ammonia co-firing using numerical analysis. Study on ammonia storage and supply facilities, as well as ammonia co-firing burner related facilities, for demonstration on commercial thermal power plants.IHI, JERA, Marubeni joint announcement, Feasibility Study under NEDO Program on Ammonia Co-firing in Thermal Power Generation Facility, March 27, 2020
Marubeni’s role is to “Study and identify challenges related to ways to reduce carbon dioxide footprint of ammonia and improvement of transportation efficiency including utilization of larger-sized vessels to reduce transportation cost.” As a major fertilizer and energy commodities trader, the company is well placed to provide insight on ammonia transportation.
JERA was only established in early 2015 but, formed by the combination of two huge public utilities, Tokyo Electric Power Group and Chubu Electric Power Group, it is a major utility active in domestic and international markets. It is one of the world’s largest LNG traders, with a transaction volume of around 35 million tons per year, participating in upstream development as well as operating a fleet of LNG tankers and terminals. JERA also operates a fleet of 26 thermal power plants in Japan, generating almost 300 TWh or roughly one third of the electric power in Japan.
JERA’s role in the feasibility study is:
To identify and solve challenges related to the application of ammonia co-firing in commercial thermal power plants, conduct studies on specifications for ammonia storage, vaporizer, etc., and economic evaluation for ammonia cost, capital investment, etc.IHI, JERA, Marubeni joint announcement, Feasibility Study under NEDO Program on Ammonia Co-firing in Thermal Power Generation Facility, March 27, 2020
Green Ammonia Consortium
IHI, JERA, and Marubeni are all leading Board Members of the Green Ammonia Consortium in Japan. Woodside Energy is a Supporting Member, as are other Australian entities looking to export hydrogen in the form of ammonia, including Yara, The Hydrogen Utility (H2U), Origin Energy, and Fortescue Metals Group.
According to the Japanese companies’ joint announcement, Woodside’s role in the project is to “Study and identify challenges related to realizing large-scale ammonia production plants and ways to reduce ammonia production cost, etc.”
Woodside is Australia’s largest natural gas producer, and claims 6% of global LNG supply. Its interest in the project comes as an existing energy supplier to Japan, seeking to develop new markets for the “large-scale export of hydrogen as ammonia.”
As part of the study, Woodside will be investigating the transition from blue to green hydrogen for export. Blue hydrogen is produced from gas using steam methane reforming, with related carbon emissions offset. Green hydrogen is produced from renewable energy using electrolysis …
Woodside CEO Peter Coleman said … “Woodside and its partners in Japan have forged new energy pathways before and we can do so again, as we expect by 2030 to see large-scale hydrogen production around the world and we intend to be part of that.”Woodside Energy announcement, WOODSIDE JOINS JAPANESE CONSORTIUM TO STUDY EXPORTING CARBON-NEUTRAL HYDROGEN, April 6, 2020