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New Twists for Japanese Ene Farms

Over the last two months, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has selected at least four natural gas utilities to participate in “verification projects” under its Building Virtual Power Plant Using Customer-Side Energy Resources program. Participating utilities so far include Osaka Gas, Tokyo Gas, Seibu Gas, and J Power. The program is intended to facilitate the development of renewable electricity in Japan and is shining a new light on the deployment of fuel cells in the country's built environment.

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News from Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems

A series of announcements from Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems this year shows the breadth of the company’s efforts to prepare for the energy transition. MHPS is a prominent global supplier of large gas turbines for power generation, and is a member of Japan’s Green Ammonia Consortium.

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Maritime Ammonia: ready for demonstration

At least four major maritime ammonia projects have been announced in the last few weeks, each of which aims to demonstrate an ammonia-fueled vessel operating at sea. In Norway, Color Fantasy, the world's largest RORO cruise liner, will pilot ammonia fuel. Across the broader Nordic region, the Global Maritime Forum has launched NoGAPS, a major consortium that aims to deploy "the world's first ammonia powered deep sea vessel" by 2025. In Japan, a new industry consortium has launched that goes beyond on-board ship technology to include "owning and operating the ships, supplying ammonia fuel and developing ammonia supply facilities." And the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT), which published its roadmap last month, aims to demonstrate ammonia fuel on "an actual ship from 2028" — specifically, a 80,000 dwt ammonia-fueled bulk carrier.

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Industry consortium announces feasibility study for co-firing ammonia in thermal power plants

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 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."

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Ammonia Included in Japan’s International Resource Strategy

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has singled out ammonia for the role it can play in the country’s creation of a "carbon-free society." The news was embedded in METI’s New International Resource Strategy which was released on March 30. In the report's framing, ammonia is cited for its association with “the concept of importing renewable energy produced in other countries.” In a departure from the practice found in most reports on the energy transition, the ammonia discussion stands alone and not as one item on a roster of potential renewable energy vectors.

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Literature Review: Ammonia as a Fuel for Compression Ignition Engines

The diesel engine, also known as the compression ignition (CI) engine, has been a workhorse of the modern energy economy for more than a hundred years. Its role in the coming sustainable energy economy will be determined by its ability to co-evolve with climate-friendly fuels. Two researchers from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan have now examined the fit between ammonia and the CI engine. Pavlos Dimitriou and Rahat Javaid arrive at a two-part conclusion in their paper, “A review of ammonia as a compression ignition engine fuel,” published in January in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy. Part one is good news: “Ammonia as a compression ignition fuel can be currently seen as a feasible solution.” Part two is a dose of qualifying reality: to manage emissions of N2O, NOx, and unburnt NH3, “aftertreatment systems are mandatory for the adaptation of this technology,” which means that ammonia-fueled CI engines are likely to be feasible “only for marine, power generation and possibly heavy-duty applications where no significant space constraints exist.”

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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 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.