Japan bets on ammonia as the fuel of the future

ft.com -- Jul 24

Ammonia is a pungent, corrosive and highly toxic chemical but by the year 2030 it should provide more than 1 per cent of Japan’s total electricity supply, according to a consortium of leading players in the industry.

In an interview with the Financial Times, gas industry executive Shigeru Muraki — a representative director of the Green Ammonia Consortium — says the fuel is forging ahead of alternatives, with Japan’s electricity industry planning for commercialisation in the next few years. 

The push to use ammonia highlights Japan’s ambitious plans to import renewable energy from other countries after the 2011 Fukushima disaster led to the shutdown of many nuclear reactors. If successful, it could lead to important changes to global energy markets, with shipments of ammonia replacing coal or natural gas. 

“For decarbonisation we need to use renewable energy as much as possible on a global basis,” Mr Muraki says. But densely populated, mountainous Japan has limited potential to produce sustainable energy of its own, so the country is looking for ways to import.

In practice this means fixing energy in some kind of hydrogen-containing compound that can be transported by sea as a liquid.