JERA starts co-firing grey ammonia in Japanese coal-fired power plant

Japanese electric producer JERA has started co-firing grey ammonia alongside coal in a demonstration trial at its thermal power plant in Hekinan City

Taking place at the coal-fired Hekinan Thermal Power Station, JERA and IHI Corporation are trialling the use of ammonia within one of the plant’s units, which they say is a “world’s first demonstration.”

20% of the heating value of unit 4 within the power station is now being substituted with ammonia and is expected to continue through to June 2024.

JERA said because ammonia does not emit carbon dioxide (CO2) when burned, it has the “major advantage” of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“The project is important as it may offer a low-cost first step to quickly advance the decarbonisation in countries like Japan that need thermal power generation as an adjustable power source to ensure a stable supply of energy,” the company said.

However, when burned ammonia produces nitrogen oxide (NOx) – a GHG almost 300 times more potent than (CO2). JERA said it would “investigate” NOx emissions.

Additionally, the ammonia supplied by Mitsui & Co – through a supply contract revealed last June (2023) – is produced with unabated fossil fuel-based hydrogen.

Typically produced from steam methane reforming of natural gas, water-gas shift reaction and Haber-Bosch process, each tonne of ammonia is produced with around 2.7 tonnes of CO2.

JERA has signed agreements to explore the supply of blue and green ammonia with both Yara and CF Industries from 2027.

With the goal of establishing technology to use ammonia in thermal power generation “with a view toward mainstreaming in society by March 2025,” JERA has said IHI will use the project to inform the development of technology for 50% or more ammonia combustion at thermal power plants and to develop 100% ammonia burners.

The pair had been working on tank, burner, vaporiser and piping construction since October 2022. IHI developed the test burner for the project based on small-volume testing results at the Hekinan plant’s Unit 5.


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