Japanese Power Giant Begins Testing Ammonia Co-Firing in Groundbreaking Trial

The biggest power producer in Japan, JERA, is starting this month the world’s first trial of co-firing 20% ammonia in a coal power plant in the first such trial using large volumes of ammonia at an operational electricity generating facility. JERA has been betting on ammonia to decarbonize the Japanese grid, which is heavily reliant on fossil fuels that need to be imported in resource-poor Japan. The power giant said in January that it would conduct demonstration testing of thermal power generation with a 20% substitution of ammonia for coal at the Hekinan Thermal Power Station in March 2024.

As ammonia and hydrogen emit no carbon dioxide (CO2) when burned, the company plans to begin reducing its CO2 emissions from power generation by mixing ammonia with coal, and hydrogen with LNG.

“Gradually increasing the proportion of ammonia and hydrogen, ultimately, by 2050, we will achieve ammonia-only and hydrogen-only thermal power generation,” JERA said earlier this year.

Various other companies across Asia, including in South Korea, Indonesia, and India, also plan ammonia test runs at coal-fired power plants, Reuters reports.

Coal accounts for more than half of the power generation mix in most of these Asian and Southeast Asian countries. In Indonesia, Indo Raya Tenaga tested ammonia co-firing at its Jawa 9 and Jawa 10 coal power plants in Banten at the end of last year. In India, where coal is still king, Adani Power, the country’s largest private-sector power generator, said in November that it would co-fire green ammonia combustion pilot project at its Mundra coal-fired power plant as part of its decarbonization initiatives.

Ammonia production, however, currently uses mostly fossil fuels, which makes the so-called ‘grey ammonia’ risky for the climate, too, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.

E3G, an independent climate change think tank, has also warned of risks in using ammonia co-firing in coal plants as it is “very costly; has limited feasibility for deployment at scale; and risks delaying the deployment of existing cost-effective, domestic and scalable renewable energy options.”