CO2-Free Ammonia Synthesis - CO2-Free Energy Carrier

CO2-free ammonia synthesis is technology for synthesizing ammonia using renewable energy. The use of this ammonia as fuel in thermal power plants or boilers and industrial furnaces aims to contribute to reductions in CO2 emissions. Under atmospheric pressure, ammonia can be liquefied at the relatively high temperature of minus 33 degrees Celsius, making it easier to store for long periods and transport than other hydrogen energy carriers, for which it has been attracting attention.

  1. *Energy Carriers
    A method by which hydrogen, which is difficult to store or transport over long distances, can be made easier to handle by changing it to liquid form.

Features

  • Ammonia synthesis technology is suitable for synthesizing low pressure hydrogen produced from renewable energy
  • Highly active ammonia synthesis catalyst at a lower temperature and pressure than current iron-based catalysts
  • Operations that can handle fluctuations in renewable energy output
  • CO2-free fuel
  • Ammonia is easy to transport and store

Applications

  • Regions with a wealth of inexpensive renewable energy
  • Regions with surplus renewable energy

Background

As a global issue, we need to realize energy diversification and a low-carbon society, aiming for environmental preservation and a sustainable society. Hydrogen energy is expected to play an important role in this process, since hydogen does not release any CO2 during combustion.

To utilize hydrogen energy, there are still issues with regard to safety, economic feasibility, and efficient transportability and storage. To solve these issues, Energy Carriers, such as Ammonia, Liquid hydrogen, and Organic hydrides, have been developed. Among these Energy Carriers, Ammonia contains the highest density of hydrogen, has ease of liquefaction, and able to be directly combusted without releasing CO2. Also, Ammonia is utilized as fertilizer and chemical feedstock, and its supply chain is already established commercially in the world. This is the reason why Ammonia has advantages over the other Energy Carriers.

Status of Ammonia Related Technology Development and Future Market as Energy Carrier

"Hydrogen General Strategy"published in December 2017 stated to aim at partial introduction of ammonia as a fuel into existing coal fired boilers around 2020, and commercial utilization of CO2 free Ammonia into existing coal fired boilers around the middle of the 2020s.

Since 2014, the Cabinet Office, in its "Cross Ministerial Strategic Innovation Promotion Program (SIP)," has expressed Japan's intention to create an innovative low-carbon, hydrogen-energy economy by the year 2030 and to take the lead in hydrogen related industries on the world market through its "Energy Carriers" research. JGC has participated in the SIP "Energy Carriers" research titled "Development of Ammonia Synthesis Process from CO2 free Hydrogen."

In addition, JGC has joined the Green Ammonia Consortium which has been established to promote ammonia as an energy carrier, and has been supporting work in the area of CO2 free Ammonia supply.

  1. *Cross Ministerial Strategic Innovation Promotion Program
    The Overall technical research and development Innovation Council is not bound by the traditional sectionalism of individual ministries and seeks new paths toward achieving innovation and technical progress.

Aiming at High Efficiency Synthesis of CO2 Free Ammonia

To utilize ammonia as fuel in power generation, ammonia needs to be "CO2 free Ammonia," and CO2 emission during CO2 free Ammonia production shall be minimized as far as possible. The ideal way to produce such ammonia is the synthesis of hydrogen produced from renewable energy by water electrolysis and nitrogen separated from air.

At present, ammonia synthesis conditions are at high temperature and pressure in the presence of an Fe-based catalyst in what is called the "Haber-Bosch Process." However, the hydrogen produced by the use of renewable energy from water through electrolysis is at low pressure. For the use of the "Haber-Bosch Process," high temperature/high pressure condition is necessary to produce ammonia, meaning that the hydrogen needs to be compressed to a high pressure ratio, and the energy efficiency of the process is decreased. To overcome this problem, high efficiency catalyst and its process under lower temperature/lower pressure conditions than the "Haber-Bosch Process" have been developed.

Outline of Current Research and Development

Since 2014, JGC, based on its evaluation of the use of ammonia as an energy carrier has participated in the SIP "Energy Carriers" research title "New Catalysts and Process for Producing Ammonia and the Use of Hydrogen Produced Through the Electolysis of Water by Renewable Energy for the Production of Ammonia."

JGC, together with the AIST and the National Institute of Technology, Numazu College as well as our subsidiary, JGC Catalysts & Chemicals Ltd., has done research and experimentation with support and catalysts and developed catalyst production processes through which a catalyst that will allow the efficient production of ammonia even under low temperature/low pressure conditions can be used.

Responding to the successful development of the new catalyst for producing ammonia, JGC has constructed a demonstration plant for its use at the the Fukushima Renewable Energy Institute, AIST in Koriyama-city, Fukushima-prefecture, which is capable of producing ammonia at the rate of 20 kg per day. The demonstration plant will be operated until the end of fiscal year 2018.

With a view to developing methods for the efficient and stable use of ammonia as a hydrogen energy carrier, JGC plans to operate the demonstration plant with hydrogen produced through the electrolysis of water using renewable energy.

It is expected that the developed technologies will be applied to store renewable energy which is unused due to limitations on grid transmission capacity or renewable energy in off-grid areas as ammonia.

Prospective

JGC is aiming to supply CO2-free Ammonia expected to be introduced into power generation plants by the mid-2020's, as stated in the "Hydrogen General Strategy." And JGC is conducting feasibility studies to supply CO2-free Ammonia to Japan, in a scheme in which ammonia is produced from natural gas and CO2 produced in the reforming process is utilized for EOR (Enhanced Oil Recovery) overseas and transported to Japan by sea freight.

It is also expected that CO2-free Ammonia production from renewable energy will be commercially introduced in the 2030s. To realize this scenario, JGC will continue demonstrations to establish an efficient and stable ammonia synthesis method from renewable energy.

Overview of CO2 Free Ammonia Supply Chain