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Saudi targets zero-carbon power generation with world’s first blue ammonia shipment



Forty tons of high-grade blue ammonia have been dispatched from Saudi Arabia, heading to Japan, in the world’s first shipment of the fuel.

(Image via Saudi Aramco)

Saudi Aramco, the Institute of Energy Economics Japan (IEEJ) and SABIC have partnered on the shipment of blue ammonia which can be burned in thermal power stations without releasing carbon emissions. 

It’s a feedstock for hydrogen, which has been getting a lot of attention as a potential source of clean energy. While burning hydrogen is clean, getting it in the first place without creating emissions or using more energy that you get out of it is a larger challenge.

Saudi Aramco produce blue ammonia through a process of converting hydrocarbons into hydrogen and then ammonia. Carbon dioxide is released as a byproduct, but is captured during the process. The final material consists of three parts hydrogen and one part nitrogen.

“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.” said Aramco’s chief technology officer, Ahmad Al-Khowaiter.

In the process of developing enough blue ammonia for the shipment, Saudi Aramco captured 50 tons of CO2. 30 tons of this has been designated for use in methanol production at SABIC’s Ibn-Sina facility while the remaining 20 will be used for Enhanced Oil Recovery at the Uthmaniyah field. 

“This milestone also highlights a successful transnational, multi-industry partnership between Saudi Arabia and Japan. Multinational partnerships are key in realizing the Circular Carbon Economy, championed by the Saudi Arabian G20 Presidency. Aramco continues to work with various partners around the world, finding solutions through the deployment of breakthrough technologies to produce low-carbon energy and address the global climate challenge,” said Al-Khowaiter.

As the first shipment, many eyes will be on the effectiveness of production and usage of the fuel - both in terms of carbon neutrality and cost. For Japan, it signals the country’s greater commitment to the potential of hydrogen power, which falls in line with its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26% by 2030. For Aramco, it will show that they are serious in cleaning up their image as a major source of emissions. 

“Blue ammonia is critical to Japan’s zero carbon emission ambitions to sustain the balance between the environment and the economy,” said Toyoda Masakuzu, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of IEEJ.

“About 10% of power in Japan can be generated by 30 million tons 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 utilize Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) or EOR due to their geological conditions. The carbon neutral blue ammonia/hydrogen will help overcome this regional disadvantage.”

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Saudi targets zero-carbon power generation with world’s first blue ammonia shipment - Time to read 3 min
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