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World’s first successful ammonia synthesis using renewable hydrogen and power

By Gerald Ondrey |

JGC Corp. (Yokohama, Japan; www.jgc.com) and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), under the auspices of the Cross Ministerial Strategic Innovation Promotion Program (SIP) Energy Carriers (Management Entity: JST), led by the Cabinet Office Council for Science, Technology and Innovation, announced today that its joint study has resulted in the world’s first success in the synthesis of ammonia with hydrogen produced through the electrolysis of water by renewable energy, and generation of electricity through gas turbines fueled by synthesized ammonia.

JGCSince 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 for producing Ammonia and the Use of Hydrogen Produced Through the Electolysis of Water by Renewable Energy for the Production of Ammonia.

In May this year, JGC, together with the AIST and the National Institute of Technology, Numazu College, as well as our subsidiary, JGC Catalysts & Chemicals Ltd., achieved success in development of a new ruthenium catalyst capable of efficiently synthesizing ammonia at a low temperature and low pressure through improvement of carrier and catalyst production methods using catalysts.

Although the researchers sought a reaction at a high temperature and pressure of about 400–500°C and 14–30 MPa for an iron-type catalyst using the Haber-Bosch Process, the newly developed ruthenium catalyst is able to synthesize ammonia at a low temperature (below 400°C) and pressure (5 MPa). The new catalyst is able use rare earth oxides as carriers, and has excellent stability compared to the ruthenium catalyst that utilizes carbon-type carriers that is already being produced.

The JGC began operation of a demonstration plant (capable of producing ammonia at the rate of 20 kg per day) that synthesized ammonia using a high purity hydrogen gas cylinder installed on the premises of the Fukushima Renewable Energy Institute, AIST in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture for this catalyst and temporary hydrogen provision.

Through this demonstration plant, together with confirming the high activity at a low temperature and pressure of the newly developed catalyst, the JGC and AIST verified the enabling of a change in ammonia production volume through rapid operational condition changes when using renewable energy, which was an issue. At this time, instead of the high purity hydrogen gas cylinder used for the demonstration plant, the JGC Group tested synthesis of ammonia using hydrogen produced through electrolysis of water through power generated by solar power equipment installed on the same premises, and realized a demonstration plant (power generation: 47 kW) through gas turbines fueled by synthesized ammonia.

Furthermore, cooperation was received from the Fukushima Renewable Energy Institute, AIST for the test of hydrogen production, and cooperation was received from the SIP Energy Carriers (Ammonia Direct Combustion) Team for the test of ammonia gas turbine power generation.

This is the first case in the world of hydrogen that utilizes renewable energy from JGC and AIST, as well as power generation fueled by ammonia production and this, and advances the establishment of an energy chain that utilizes ammonia that does not emit CO2 from production to power generation.

Going forward, the JGC Group will continue to carry out the ammonia synthesis test and research and development toward cost reduction of ammonia production utilizing renewable energy, together with actively working toward energy diversification and realizing a low-carbon society by achieving the vision promoted by SIP Energy Carriers research of “Japan creating an innovative low-carbon, hydrogen-fueled economy and taking the lead in hydrogen related industries on the world market” by the year 2030.

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