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IHI, JERA commence world’s first large-scale ammonia co-firing demo

IHI, JERA commence world’s first large-scale ammonia co-firing demo
JERA Co., Inc. (JERA) and IHI Corporation (IHI) large-scale ammonia co-firing demonstration project at the 1 GW Unit 4 of JERA's Hekinan Thermal Power Station in Hekinan City, Aichi Prefecture, Japan (image courtesy JERA).

In Japan, energy utility JERA Co., Inc (JERA), and compatriot IHI Corporation (IHI) have announced the start of what is said to be the world’s first demonstration testing of large-volume fuel ammonia substitution (20 percent of heating value) at a large-scale commercial coal-fired thermal power plant. This demonstration testing at JERA’s Hekinan Thermal Power Station in Hekinan City, Aichi Prefecture, is planned to be carried out through June 2024.

Ammonia is seen as an efficient, low-cost means of transporting and storing hydrogen. In addition to its role as an energy carrier, it can be used directly as a fuel in thermal power generation.

Because it does not emit carbon dioxide (CO2) when burned, fuel ammonia has the major advantage of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in thermal power plants.

Part of a four-year NEDO project

Subsidized by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), the project “Development of Technologies for Carbon Recycling and Next-Generation Thermal Power Generation / Research, Development, and Demonstration of Technologies for Ammonia Co-Firing Thermal Power Generation” is important as it may offer a low-cost first step to quickly advance decarbonization in countries like Japan that need thermal power generation as an adjustable power source to ensure a stable supply of energy.

Looking to reduce future environmental impact, the project aims to establish ammonia substitution technology by substituting fuel with ammonia at a large-scale commercial coal-fired power plant and evaluating both boiler heat absorption and environmental impact characteristics such as exhaust gases.

The four-year project began in July 2021 and is scheduled to continue through March 2025.

Start of large-scale ammonia firing

Since October 2022, JERA and IHI have been moving forward in constructing the burners, tank, vaporizer, piping, and other facilities necessary for demonstration testing fuel ammonia substitution at JERA’s coal-fired Hekinan Thermal Power Station in Hekinan City, Aichi Prefecture.

With five units totaling 4.1 GW of power capacity, Hekinan Thermal Power Station is Japan’s largest coal-fired power plant.

The 2,000 m3 ammonia storage tank at JERA’s Hekinan Thermal Power Station (photo courtesy JERA).

IHI has developed a test burner based on the results of small-volume testing of fuel ammonia at the power station’s Unit 5. JERA has prepared safety measures and an operational framework for the use of fuel ammonia at the power station.

With such preparations in place, the demonstration testing of large-volume fuel ammonia substitution began on April 1, 2024, at the power station’s Unit 4.

The demonstration testing will look at the characteristics of the plant overall, investigating nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and confirming factors such as operability and the impact on boilers and ancillary equipment.

By addressing issues raised through the demonstration testing, JERA and IHI will seek to establish, technology for the use of fuel ammonia in thermal power generation with a view toward mainstreaming in society by March 2025.

Develop burners for high-ratio combustion

Based on the current demonstration testing, JERA will begin commercial operation of large-volume fuel ammonia substitution (20 percent of heating value) at Unit 4 of JERA’s Hekinan Thermal Power Station.

The IHI ammonia burner at Unit 4 JERA’s Hekinan Thermal Power Station (photo courtesy JERA).

By establishing the technology for ammonia substitution, JERA will offer a clean energy supply platform that combines renewable energy with low-carbon thermal power, contributing to the healthy growth and development of Asia and the world.

In addition to steadily carrying out the current demonstration testing, IHI will apply the knowledge gained through the Project to establish technology for high-ratio combustion of 50 percent ammonia or more at thermal power plants and to develop burners for 100 percent ammonia combustion, deploying the results of the demonstration testing to other thermal power plants in Japan and overseas will contribute to global decarbonization through fuel ammonia.

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