IHI Corporation pushes its ammonia combustion technologies closer to commercialization

By Trevor Brown on October 11, 2019

Click to enlarge. Japan Chemical Daily, IHI Speeds up Development of Several Ammonia-Based Technologies, October 7, 2019.

This week, an article in Japan Chemical Daily disclosed IHI Corporation’s future plans for its range of ammonia combustion technologies, each of which has been demonstrated in the last year. These include “ammonia-coal co-fired thermal power boilers, ammonia-fired gas turbines and direct ammonia solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs).”

Under the headline “IHI Speeds up Development of Several Ammonia-Based Technologies,” the article describes the company’s ambitions for scaling-up each of these technologies, and provides a schedule for its next set of demonstration projects.

IHI Corporation’s Recent Technology Demonstrations

We have written about all of these technologies before. (I was privileged to visit IHI, and observe each demonstration unit, during a trip to Japan in June 2018.)

In May 2018, we reported that Direct Ammonia Fuel Cells Take Another Step Forward in Japan, when IHI announced that its 1 kW SOFC stack was operational. In April 2018, we wrote about its coal co-combustion demonstration, saying IHI First to Reach 20% Ammonia-Coal Co-Firing Milestone. For ammonia gas turbines (AGTs), this week’s article states that “IHI has become the world’s first company to achieve co-firing, carrying this out using a 2-megawatt gas turbine.”

We reviewed IHI Corporation’s AGT work most recently in January 2019, when we reported Ammonia Gas Turbines on European R&D List. In that article, we contrasted the quick pace of development in Japan against slower progress in other regions:

The AGT timeline presented by Shigeru Muraki, Director of the Energy Carriers initiative … called for full commercial implementation of mid-size AGTs (“~2 MW”) in the mid-2020s and of utility-scale AGTs (“~100 MW”) in the late 2020s. [Agustin Valera-Medina, Senior Lecturer at the Cardiff University School of Engineering] said he finds this credible.  Given the scope and pace of the Japanese program, “a gas turbine will be available in, say, five years” …

“In Japan they are engaged in the game and they want to go for it,” he said. “They believe that [AGT technology] is part of the future.”

Ammonia Energy, Ammonia Gas Turbines on European R&D List, January 10, 2019
Click to enlarge. Shigeru Muraki, Keynote Speech: Development of Technologies to Utilize Green Ammonia in Energy Market, 11/01/2018.

IHI Corporation’s Future Technology Demonstrations

Building on these recent achievements, this week’s news describes the company’s immediate ambitions:

IHI aims to further increase the ratio of ammonia it is able to mix in to ammonia–coal co-fired thermal power boilers, as well as to curb NOx emissions from this co-firing. Then for gas turbines, the company is considering a goal of more than 50 percent ammonia content for its co-firing. Current aims are for both of these technologies to enter demonstration testing in fiscal 2021 or thereafter.

In terms of improving its direct ammonia SOFCs, IHI is focused on upscaling its technology as it envisions use in the likes of hospitals, other buildings and ships. The company is moving forward here with research targeting the creation of systems spanning 10–100 kilowatts.

Japan Chemical Daily, IHI Speeds up Development of Several Ammonia-Based Technologies, October 7, 2019

At next month’s Ammonia Energy Conference 2019, in Orlando, FL, IHI Corporation will be presenting technical updates on both its ammonia gas turbine and its coal co-firing technologies. Much of the focus of both presentations will be on the successful reduction of NOx emissions from ammonia combustion.

In the presentation, Performance of Ammonia/Natural Gas Co-fired Gas Turbine with Two-stage Combustor, Masahiro Uchida will report the experimental results of the AGT co-firing: “In engine testing … power is increased up to 2 MWe power generation output firing natural gas, before ammonia is supplied to the combustor. Ammonia supply to the engine is measured in terms of the heat input ratio of ammonia to total fuel … Operation of the gas turbine engine turned out to be stable in the whole range of ammonia mixing ratios from 0 to 25%.”

In the same conference session, showcasing global technologies for ammonia combustion, IHI Corporation’s Takamasa Ito will present the paper, New Technology of the Ammonia Co-Firing with Pulverized Coal to Reduce the NOx Emission. This presentation focuses on mechanisms for addressing NOx, essentially taking advantage of ammonia’s properties as a deNOx reagent. “It succeeded to reduce the NO concentration to be in the same degree with the conventional boiler … In some test cases, it was experimentally observed that NO concentration in the ammonia co-firing is lower than that in the coal firing.”

This week’s Japan Chemical Daily article concludes by mentioning IHI Corporation’s membership of the Green Ammonia Consortium, and its interest in the development of energy markets for ammonia. “More broadly, IHI is pursuing the development of ammonia synthesis catalysts that use renewable energy, as well as the construction of a value chain using ammonia as [an energy] carrier.” We wrote about this just last month, when we announced that IHI Breaks Ground on Hydrogen Research Facility.