Co-firing ammonia in a coal-fueled boiler, a concept under active development in Japan, received positive notice in the International Energy Agency’s recently published report, The Future of Hydrogen. So far serious scrutiny of the co-firing concept is limited to Japan. In the fullness of time, the demand side of the concept may take root in other countries. The supply side, however, could have neat-term global relevance.
NEWS BRIEF: The industrial process for ammonia production is increasingly being recognized as a target for decarbonization - by researchers, investors, regulators, and the producers themselves. Demonstrating this shift in awareness, Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN), one of the flagship publications of the American Chemical Society (ACS), this week published an in-depth review of global research and development efforts and demonstration plants for sustainable ammonia synthesis. Its review is all-encompassing, from near-term feasible renewable Haber-Bosch plants, to long-term research areas of electrochemistry, photocatalysis, and bioengineering.
Two recent announcements show that the race is still very much on among the energy carriers that until recently were a focus of the Japanese Cabinet Office’s Cross-Ministerial Strategic Innovation Promotion Program (SIP). During its five-year career, the SIP Energy Carriers initiative promoted the development of liquid hydrogen (LH2), liquid organic hydrides (LOH), and ammonia as technologies that could animate a hydrogen supply chain spanning continents and oceans. The announcements regarding LH2 and methyl cyclohexane (MCH -- the main Energy Carriers focus in the LOH area) show that the conclusion of the Energy Carriers work at the end March does not mean the conclusion of work on these two rivals to ammonia energy.
Volume 174 of the journal Energy, published on May 1, 2019, includes a paper by Shin’ya Obara, Professor in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the Kitami Institute of Technology in Japan, that should be of interest to hydrogen advocates everywhere. The paper, "Energy and exergy flows of a hydrogen supply chain with truck transportation of ammonia or methyl cyclohexane," concludes that a hydrogen supply chain based on ammonia has better energy efficiency than one based on methyl cyclohexane (MCH).
ANNOUNCEMENT: The Japanese Government’s Cabinet Office and the Japan Science and Technology Agency have released an English-language video that summarizes the accomplishments of the Cross-Ministerial Strategic Innovation Promotion Program’s Energy Carriers initiative. The release coincides with the end-of-March conclusion of Energy Carriers’ work, and anticipates this month’s formal activation of the Green Ammonia Consortium.
Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) announced on March 12 that it had released a “major revision” to the country’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Strategy Roadmap. The Roadmap was first formulated in 2014 to “secure the goals set forth in the Basic Hydrogen Strategy and the 5th Basic Energy Plan for the realization of a hydrogen society.” The Roadmap’s last revision in 2016 predates new editions of the foundation documents that were released in December 2017 and July 2018, respectively.
NEWS BRIEF: A research paper was published this week by researchers from Xiamen Univeristy in China, which "proposes a scheme for an ammonia-based energy storage system in which ammonia, an environmentally benign hydrogen carrier, is expected to [resolve] the conflicts of renewable energy supply and consumption in China."
The IEA has developed a rigorous economic model to examine the proposition that resource intermittency can be managed by siting hydrogen facilities where variable renewable energy (VRE) resources have complementary daily and seasonal production profiles. Last month, IEA Senior Analyst Cédric Philibert shared modeling results from selected sites in China with an audience at the Energy Research Institute in Beijing. The exercise offers a first quantitative look at two important questions. First, what is the economic impact of "VRE stacking"? And second, what is the relative cost position of ammonia produced via a stacking approach?
Last month the Fuji-Keizai Group released its latest biennial review of the global market for fuel cells, “Future Outlook for Fuel Cell-Related Technology and Market in 2018.” This is at least the third iteration of the report, and comparison across the different editions shows how expectations have evolved. The report features both polymer electrolyte and solid oxide fuel cells. Although not mentioned in the report, a number of groups are working on direct ammonia versions of both technologies.
Last month I had the opportunity to reflect on “Ammonia’s Role in the Hydrogen Society.” This was the title of a speech I gave at the Ammonia Energy International Workshop in Tokyo. The Workshop was held on January 25 by the Energy Carriers initiative of the Japanese Government’s Strategic Innovation Promotion Program (SIP) as it moves toward its terminal date of March 31, and as the Green Ammonia Consortium, which grew out of the Energy Carriers program, prepares for its official launch in the same time frame. The key takeaways from my speech are that ammonia is widely seen as a contributor to the viability of hydrogen energy, but the extent of its potential role is not appreciated.