Series Presents Japanese Perspective on Ammonia as a CO2-Free Fuel

By Bunro Shiozawa on September 08, 2020

Editor’s note: Bunro Shiozawa is a Senior Associate at Sumitomo Chemical Company. Since 2014 he has played a unique role in building the case for ammonia as a carrier of hydrogen. Over the last year he has published a series of articles that describe and reflect on the work done by him and his colleagues, and its impacts in Japan and beyond. In the article that follows, Shiozawa opens a door to his articles for non-Japanese readers.

From 2014 to 2018, I served as Deputy Program Director of SIP “Energy Carriers” under Mr. Shigeru Muraki, Program Director, and alongside my fellow Deputy Program Director, Dr. Ken-ichi Aika. After helping to bring the Energy Carriers’ work to a successful conclusion, I decided to write a series of articles that describe prospects for ammonia as a CO2-free fuel and hydrogen carrier, as well as activities to construct a value chain of CO2-free ammonia. The articles were published in the on-line journal of Japan’s International Environment and Economy Institute (IEEI).

The Cross-Ministerial Innovation Promotion Program (SIP) is a national initiative run by the Cabinet Office of the Japanese government. SIP “Energy Carriers” was one of ten projects in the Program. SIP “Energy Carriers” was conducted from 2014 to 2018 with USD $150 million in government funding. The project generated many outstanding results which revealed the potential of ammonia in decarbonizing present energy systems. Many of its findings and outcomes have been referenced in hydrogen-energy related publications including The Future of Hydrogen, the June 2019 report from the International Energy Agency. 

Click to enlarge. Hydrogen energy carriers addressed by the “Energy Carriers” initiative. Courtesy of SIP “Energy Carriers.”

My objective in writing the series is to promote understanding of the prospects of ammonia as a CO2-free fuel in a comprehensive manner based on the findings and R&D outcomes of SIP “Energy Carriers”, and then to facilitate the development of a CO2-free ammonia value chain by disseminating such knowledge among potential stakeholders of CO2-free ammonia.

The series consists of the following ten parts:

  • Part 1: Introduction and a very brief summary on the potential of ammonia as a CO2-free fuel and hydrogen carrier.
  • Part 2: The importance of hydrogen energy for Japan.
  • Part 3: The importance of energy carriers for Japan, and advantages of ammonia from the viewpoint of its physico-chemical properties.
  • Part 4: Scientific findings on ammonia combustion mechanisms and technological progress in ammonia direct use technologies.
  • Part 5: The scale required for a CO2-free ammonia value chain and the maturity of technologies comprising the value chain.
  • Part 6: Cost estimations for CO2-free ammonia based on the IEA’s The Future of Hydrogen and a study from the Institute of Energy and Economics, Japan.
  • Part 7: Implications and policy suggestions derived from the results of the cost estimation.
  • Part 8: Activities underway to develop a CO2-free ammonia value chain in Japan, including those in the Green Ammonia Consortium (GAC) and other countries, and policy recommendations for the governments concerned with early construction of the value chain.
  • Part 9: Advantages of ammonia relative to other energy carriers, such as liquid hydrogen and methyl cyclohexane (MCH), in transporting large volumes of hydrogen energy.
  • Part 10: Evaluation of the SIP program as an innovation promotion policy.

The achievements of SIP “Energy Carriers” have already influenced Japan’s hydrogen-energy-related policies and private-sector activities.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry recognizes the potential of ammonia as a CO2-free fuel in the recently compiled “A New International Resource Strategy” (March 2020), saying that “use of ammonia as fuel will be an important measure to solve energy and CO2 constraint to which Japan has been facing.” Furthermore, the “Integrated Innovation Strategy,” adopted by the Cabinet in July 2020, set a CO2-free ammonia importation target of three million tonnes in 2030.

Click to enlarge. CO2-free ammonia value chain as envisioned by the “Energy Carriers” initiative. Courtesy of SIP “Energy Carriers.”

In the private sector, the Green Ammonia Consortium was established in April 2019 as an independent non-profit organization by private companies interested in developing a CO2-free ammonia value chain based on achievements generated by SIP “Energy Carriers.” As of August 2020, about 80 private companies and public institutions both in Japan and abroad were participating in GAC. The members of GAC come from the energy industry including most of the Japanese electricity companies, gas turbine and boiler manufacturers, trading companies, engineering companies and ship builders, as well as energy companies and government institutions in energy-rich countries. The expected role of GAC is to function as an information platform for those member organizations and to develop policy proposals and recommendations for interested government agencies.

Although my articles are written in Japanese, translation into English and other languages is available through the use of Google Translate and other translation applications.