Aramco and the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ), in partnership with SABIC, have successfully demonstrated the production and shipment of blue ammonia from Saudi Arabia to Japan, with support from the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
The shipment of high-grade blue ammonia (using blue hydrogen from steam methane reforming with carbon capture and storage) is a significant step towards sustainable hydrogen usage and a circular carbon economy.
It is also a successful demonstration of the supply network from Saudi Arabia to Japan.
The announcement comes amid growing appreciation of the role hydrogen will play in the global energy system. Ammonia, a compound consisting of three parts hydrogen and one part nitrogen, can contribute to addressing the challenge of meeting the world’s growing energy needs in a reliable, affordable and sustainable manner.
The Saudi-Japan blue ammonia supply network demonstration spanned the full value chain; including the conversion of hydrocarbons to hydrogen and then to ammonia, as well as the capture of associated carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
It overcame challenges associated with the shipping of blue ammonia to Japan for use in power plants, with 30 tonnes of CO2 captured during the process designated for use in methanol production at SABIC’s Ibn-Sina facility and another 20 tonnes of captured CO2 being used for Enhanced Oil Recovery at Aramco’s Uthmaniyah field.
This milestone highlights one of several pathways within the concept of a global Circular Carbon Economy, a framework in which CO2 emissions are reduced, removed, recycled and reused – as opposed to being released into the atmosphere.
Aramco’s chief technology officer Ahmad O. Al-Khowaiter, said: “The use of hydrogen is expected to grow in the global energy system, and this world’s first demonstration represents an exciting opportunity for Aramco to showcase the potential of hydrocarbons as a reliable and affordable source of low-carbon hydrogen and ammonia.”
IEEJ’s chairman and chief executive officer Toyoda Masakazu, said: “Blue ammonia is critical to Japan’s zero carbon emission ambitions to sustain the balance between the environment and the economy. About 10% of power in Japan can be generated by 30M tonnes of blue ammonia. We can start with co-firing blue ammonia in existing power stations, eventually transitioning to single firing with 100% blue ammonia. There are nations such as Japan which cannot necessarily utilise Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) or EOR due to their geological conditions. The carbon-neutral blue ammonia/hydrogen will help overcome this regional disadvantage.”
SABIC vice president of Energy Efficiency and Carbon Management, Dr. Fahad Al-Sherehy, said: “At SABIC, we can economically leverage our existing infrastructure for hydrogen and ammonia production with CO2 capture. Our experience in the full supply chain along with integrated petrochemicals facilities will play an important role in providing blue ammonia to the world.”
Ammonia contains approximately 18% hydrogen by weight and is already a widely traded chemical on the world stage. It releases zero CO2 emissions when combusted in a thermal power plant and has the potential to make a significant contribution to an affordable and reliable low-carbon energy future.
SABIC and Mitsubishi Corporation, which is represented on the IEEJ study team involved in the project, are overseeing the transport logistics in partnership with JGC Corporation, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engineering, Mitsubishi Shipbuilding and UBE Industries.
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