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Replacing Fuel Coal with Ammonia—JERA Starts the World’s First Demonstration Testing of Ammonia Used for Thermal Power Generation

8 April 2024

On 13 March, JERA announced that the world’s first large-scale demonstration test substituting fuel ammonia for coal at a large-scale commercial coal-fired power plant would begin in late March at the Hekinan Thermal Power Station in Hekinan City, Aichi Prefecture, and opened the test facility to the press.

Since FY 2021, JERA has been working on a demonstration project to establish technology for using ammonia as fuel. By shortening the process of installing the necessary equipment, we have managed to start the demonstrate testing a year ahead of schedule.

Hekinan Thermal Power Station. Of the two visible boiler buildings, the one on the left is Unit 4, where the demonstration testing will be conducted.

Specifically, 20% of the coal used as fuel for the power station’s Unit 4 (power output: 1,000 MW) will be replaced with ammonia. Attaching a new nozzle developed by IHI Corporation to the 48 burners that burn coal enables us to use ammonia as fuel.

The demonstration testing will verify whether stable combustion can be achieved, whether nitrogen oxide emissions can be controlled in the same way as when burning only coal, and whether combustion can be adjusted in response to fluctuations in electricity demand. Testing is scheduled to run through June 2024.

After that, JERA will continue simulations to explore issues related to increasing the substitution rate to at least 50% and, in the future, to 100%.

The burner for burning ammonia is a modification of an existing burner.

Gaseous ammonia is supplied to the modified burner through the orange pipe.

The demonstrate testing will use about 40,000 tons of ammonia. In addition, an ammonia storage tank with a capacity of 2,000m3 (approximately 1,300 tons) and a vaporizer (to convert ammonia, which is transported in liquid form, into gas) were newly installed at the power station.

Katsuya Tanigawa, General Manager of Hekinan Thermal Power Station, said, “We know how to handle ammonia because we already use it in the denitrification process, but this will be the world’s first large-scale use of ammonia as fuel in thermal power generation. Putting safety first, we look forward to taking on the challenge of establishing the technology to substitute ammonia for coal.”

This is the world’s first attempt to use large amounts of ammonia as fuel in thermal power generation. In addition to implementing a robust safety design to prevent ammonia leaks, we are taking thorough preventive measures to avoid equipment failures and operational errors. We are also ensuring safe and secure equipment operation through mechanisms for detecting equipment abnormalities at an early stage, training and education on how to keep any damage to a minimum, and collaboration with local fire departments and local governments.

Ammonia emits no CO2 when burned. In addition, the 20% substitution of ammonia for coal can be achieved using existing power station equipment, requiring modification only to some equipment such as the burners. By establishing the technology through this demonstration testing, we are taking on the challenge of achieving zero-emissions at thermal power plants in Japan and around the world.

This ammonia storage tank was newly installed for the demonstration testing. Ammonia liquefies at -33°C. To the left of the tank is a vaporizer that converts ammonia into gas.