Japan, UAE to Cooperate on Ammonia Energy

By Stephen H. Crolius on January 28, 2021

Japan has forged an agreement with the United Arab Emirates under which the two countries will “accelerate the bilateral cooperation in the fields of fuel ammonia and carbon recycling.” According to a report in the Nikkei’s financial newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the agreement “will be the first framework for international cooperation in the field of ammonia.” A press release from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), says that the agreement was signed by METI and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) on behalf of their respective countries. The UAE is the source of 30% of Japan’s crude oil imports, according to the Nikkei. ADNOC is the country’s state-owned oil company.

The agreement, described as a memorandum of cooperation, will focus on technology demonstration and efforts to “expand the market.” It does not mention specific technologies or trade arrangements. Instead, it states that a “working group will be established between the two sides to discuss specific cooperation.”

The Nikkei article (“Japan, UAE collaborate to promote ammonia utilization, decarbonization”, January 14, 2021) states that “Japan has positioned ammonia, which can be used in thermal power generation, as an important field toward virtually zero greenhouse gas emissions in 2050.” Last month, METI announced that “ammonia fuel” would be one of 14 “priority fields” included within a new initiative dubbed the “Green Growth Strategy towards 2050 Carbon-Neutrality.” The Strategy’s main mission for ammonia is co-firing in coal-fired electricity generation. The Nikkei story confirms that “the technology to use ammonia for power generation is approaching practical application. In fiscal 2021, demonstration projects at actual power plants will begin.”

On the carbon recycling side, the scope will include carbon dioxide “reuse” as a “material and fuel.” The Nikkei article even mentions the possibility of integrating the two sides of the effort: “If ammonia is mixed with fuel for thermal power generation to suppress CO2, and CO2 emissions can still be recovered and reused, it will lead to further reduction of emissions.”

METI has consistently emphasized that Japan intends to play a leadership role in the global development of ammonia energy. Even while making the joint announcement with the UAE, METI described the country’s intention to engage in “resource diplomacy” by developing supply relationships with multiple countries. The Nikkei article reports that “cooperation in the field of decarbonization with developing and emerging countries that are highly dependent on fossil fuels is also an important issue, and cooperation in the new energy field will be deepened.”