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Japan’s Road Map for Fuel Ammonia

This month, the Japanese Ministry for Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) began promoting an updated Road Map for Fuel Ammonia, focused on the use of ammonia in thermal power plants and as a shipping fuel. By 2030, Japan expects to import 3 million tons of clean ammonia, with demand rising to 30 million tons by 2050. To secure these volumes, Japanese companies are now making investments up and down the supply chain. These are ambitious numbers, matching Japan’s recent commitment to reach net-zero emissions, but still they miss the big picture. The broader economic opportunity arrives when Japanese companies export their fuel ammonia technologies, decarbonizing coal-fired power plants across Asia, and then supply the fuel to these newly sustainable shipping and electricity sectors. By 2050, the METI Road Map expects Japanese trading companies to supply the wider region with 100 million tons per year of clean ammonia.

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Hydrogen Council publishes Life-Cycle Analysis of Decarbonization Pathways

The Hydrogen Council has published a valuable report with a rigorous life-cycle assessment (LCA) of greenhouse gas emissions from various hydrogen applications. It illustrates the report with eight specific examples, two of which focus on ammonia. With green hydrogen as an input to ammonia used in fertilizer production, we could deliver a 96% reduction in emissions. With blue hydrogen exported and combusted as ammonia for electric power generation, we could deliver an 84% reduction in emissions. As the report states at the start: “Life-cycle emissions are coming into focus with scaling-up of hydrogen … To deliver on the sustainability promise, it is … not only important to make it economically viable, but also maximize its decarbonization potential.”

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Ammonia Featured in Japan’s New Green Growth Strategy

Last month Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) unveiled a policy platform that will help the country realize its goal of achieving carbon-neutrality by 2050. According to a December 25, 2020 METI press release, the “Green Growth Strategy towards 2050 Carbon Neutrality” sets goals for 14 “priority fields” and “formulates action plans covering comprehensive policies in areas such as budgets, taxes, regulation reforms and standardization, and international collaboration.” “Ammonia fuel” and hydrogen are each the focus of a distinct priority field.

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Tsubame BHB Launches Joint Evaluation with Mitsubishi Chemical

Last month Tsubame BHB, a Japanese developer of ammonia synthesis technology, announced the signing of a “joint evaluation contract” with Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation (MCC) that will focus on a novel ammonia separation membrane. The company, which started operations in 2017, is working on a method of ammonia synthesis that could allow economic production at scales 1-2 orders of magnitude below today’s plants.

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The Cost of CO2-free Ammonia

If ammonia is to be introduced into the energy system as a CO2-free fuel, its cost must be at least competitive with that of other CO2-free fuels such as CO2-free hydrogen. In the discussion below I consider the cost aspect of CO2-free ammonia. To state my conclusion at the beginning, the cost of CO2-free ammonia can be less than 30 yen/Nm3-H2, which is the 2030 cost target for hydrogen energy set by the Japanese government in its "Basic Hydrogen Strategy” for introducing hydrogen energy into Japan.

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METI Forms Ammonia Energy Council

Last week, Japan’s Ministry of Energy, Trade, and Industry (METI) announced the formation of a council to work on the implementation of ammonia as an energy commodity. The announcement came on the same day as a speech by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in which he established 2050 as the date certain for Japan to achieve carbon-neutrality. That was Monday October 26, 2020. The council held its first meeting on Tuesday October 27. The Council consists of four entities from the public sector and ten from the private sector. Members include companies that have previously been identified with the development of ammonia energy systems, including EPC firm JGC, capital goods manufacturer IHI, electric utility JERA, and shipping company NYK Line. The membership also reflects what appears to be the group’s central mission: positioning Japan as ammonia energy’s global leader via the dissemination of technology and the development of supply chains.

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Japan’s Electricity Sector: An Early Market for Low-Carbon Ammonia

This week, Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that by 2050 the country would drive its greenhouse gas emissions to zero and achieve carbon-neutrality. Earlier in the month, the Japanese electric utility JERA announced its intention of “achieving zero CO2 emissions by 2050.” Its first step toward this goal was its 'JERA Zero CO2 Emissions 2050 Roadmap for its Business in Japan.'

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A Deep Dive into SIP “Energy Carriers” Ammonia Combustion Research (second half)

From 2014 to 2018 Bunro Shiozawa served as Deputy Program Director of the SIP “Energy Carriers” initiative in Japan. Over the last year he has published a ten-part series of articles that describe and reflect on the research supported by the initiative. Part 4 covers ammonia combustion technologies. The first half of the article was posted on September 23, 2020, in Shiozawa's English translation. The second half follows.

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Saudi Arabia ships low-carbon ammonia to Japan

Last week, Saudi Aramco and the IEEJ attracted significant media attention when they announced that the first “blue” ammonia has been shipped to Japan. Aramco’s celebration of this shipment of 40 tons of ammonia (not 40 thousand or 40 million, just 40 tons) raises many questions, but makes three things clear. First, projects to demonstrate the carbon footprint of specific batches of low-carbon ammonia are now underway, and these case studies will inform the design of an international low-carbon ammonia certification scheme. Second, there is an urgent need to establish definitions across the industry, or risk losing credibility. Third, Aramco (absolutely the most profitable company in the world, with over a hundred oil and gas fields and almost 300 trillion scf of natural gas reserves) has sent a clear signal that it intends to make and sell ammonia as a decarbonized energy commodity.