Article

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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SIP “Energy Carriers” video: ammonia turbines, industrial furnaces, fuel cells

To demonstrate the progress of the SIP "Energy Carriers" program, the Japan Science and Technology Agency last week released a video, embedded below, that shows three of its ammonia fuel research and development projects in operation. R&D is often an abstract idea: this video shows what it looks like to generate power from ammonia. As it turns out, fuel cells aren't hugely photogenic. Nonetheless, if a picture is worth a thousand words, this will be a long article.

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The Dawn of Bio-Ammonia

In the last 12 months ... Bio-engineering has set its sights on ammonia. If we could deliver ammonia-emitting microbes to the soil we might make ammonia fertilizer obsolete; on the other hand, if we could farm them, we might establish ammonia as a new, carbon-free algal biofuel.