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Could co-firing ammonia in coal-fired power plants prolong the life of coal-fired power plants?

A. It is a way to reduce GHGs from coal-fired power as quickly as possible, and it is aimed to convert to ammonia-only firing instead of coal co-firing in the future.
  • Ammonia is often considered a transitional alternative fuel in thermal power generation, but ultimately it can be burned exclusively (burning ammonia as the only fuel). For example, ammonia co-firing in coal-fired power generation, which is currently being demonstrated, will enable a transition to zero emission thermal power generation (i.e., a thermal power plant that emits no CO2) by gradually increasing the co-firing rate and ultimately switching to ammonia-only combustion. Thus, ammonia is not only a transitional but also a sustainable fuel.
  • To achieve carbon neutrality, it is necessary to introduce the maximum amount of domestic renewable energy. On the other hand, a certain percentage of thermal power generation is also necessary to ensure supply and adjustment capacity to meet energy demand. In order to make thermal power generation carbon neutral, we believe it is necessary to use biomass, hydrogen, ammonia, and other decarbonized fuels in a complementary and well-balanced manner while taking advantage of their respective characteristics. Integration of renewable energy and next generation of low-carbon power generation approaches is essential to achieve the zero emission goal.
  • In addition, ammonia is positioned by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)*1 and the Ammonia Energy Association (AEA)*2 as the most promising decarbonized fuel in terms of qualities and cost for long-distance marine transport and storage1).
  • The use of ammonia can also promote the introduction of renewable energy on a global scale. Overseas, where renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power are abundant and inexpensive, hydrogen is produced from the electricity, converted to ammonia, imported to Japan, and used to generate electricity. This can be seen as a model for the use of renewable energy on a global scale, and Japan will play a leading role in this through international collaboration.
  • The Japanese government is currently promoting the development of technologies for high co-firing rate and 100%-firing ammonia for power generation in the “Construction of Fuel Ammonia Supply Chain” project under the Green Innovation (GI) Fund Project*3 2). In addition, the “Long-Term Decarbonization Power Supply Auction”*4 led by the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy has made ammonia co-firing eligible under the condition that a path to 100%-firing be established, and this system is also expected to promote the shift to ammonia 100%-firing on a sustained basis3).

*1   International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA): An international organization promoting renewable energy on a global scale. 168 member countries as of February 7, 2023.

*2   Ammonia Energy Association (AEA): A U.S.-based international organization that promotes the production, distribution, and use of clean ammonia. 197 member companies worldwide as of February 7, 2023.

*3   Green Innovation (GI) Fund Program: A support program overseen by the National Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) for companies that are working to achieve ambitious and specific goals to accelerate structural transformation and innovation in the energy and industrial sectors.

*4    Long-Term Decarbonization Power Supply Auction: A 20-year support program in principle for new investments in decarbonized power sources, aimed at securing and promoting new investments in decarbonized power sources.

1) International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Ammonia Energy Association (AEA), “Inovation Outlook: Renewable Ammonia” (2022)


2) Fuel Ammonia Supply Chain Establishment | NEDO Green Innovation Fund Projects (2022.10.05)


3) Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Subcommittee on Electricity and Gas Basic Policy, Working Group to Study the System, “8th Interim Summary”. (2022.10)

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