Japan Onahama port to examine ammonia, hydrogen imports

  • Market: Coal, Fertilizers, Hydrogen, Oil products
  • 06/04/21

Onahama port on Japan's northeast coast aims to accommodate future needs for imports of carbon-neutral fuels, such as ammonia and hydrogen, by taking advantage of its coal import infrastructure.

The transport ministry's Tohoku regional bureau has drafted a proposal to develop Onahama port in Fukushima prefecture as a carbon-neutral port, as part of Tokyo's strategy to tackle energy transition in the run-up to 2050. The draft proposal aims to address an estimated 16mn t/yr of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated from port operations and to decarbonise by 2050.

Under the proposal, the group plans to actively examine developing infrastructure for ammonia and liquified hydrogen imports, as well as decarbonisation of port logistics, including hydrogen-powered fuel cell (FC) trucks and forklifts. It is particularly keen to address the potential for large-volume imports of fuel-use ammonia, using a large vessel, for power generation.

The port's potential demand has been projected at 1.56mn t/yr of fuel-use ammonia, or 290,000 t/yr of hydrogen, assuming that ammonia co-firing at 20pc will be achieved at nearby coal-fired power plants and that port logistics vehicles will be all powered by FCs.

Japan's power industry plans to test 20pc co-firing of ammonia at power joint venture Jera's two 1,000MW coal-fired power units at Hekinan, starting in the April 2021-March 2022 fiscal year. Engineering firm Mitsubishi Power is also developing an ammonia-fired gas turbine power generation unit, aiming for commercial use after 2025.

Japan's ammonia demand is projected at 3mn t/yr in 2030, mostly for power generation, before rising further to 30mn t/yr by 2050. Onahama is one of the Japanese ports that could become a hub for ammonia imports because of its existing coal import infrastructure servicing nearby coal-fired power plants, including the 2,000MW Haramachi, the 2,000MW Shinchi and the 1,450MW Nakoso, and two 543MW integrated coal gasification combined-cycle units in Hirono and Nakoso.

The transport ministry in 2019 completed a ¥58bn ($530mn) expansion of Onahama's coal import terminal to receive Post-Panamax and Capesize vessels, aiming to add to supply security and reduce import costs. The new coal terminal is operated by a consortium of companies including engineering firm IHI.

The proposal said Onahama port would need to install a 40,000m³ tank to store ammonia in order to meet possible co-firing demand from the power sector. The ammonia is expected to be imported initially either on a 50,000 deadweight tonne (dwt) gas carrier or a 50,000-80,000dwt LR product tanker, and later on a 160,000dwt dedicated ammonia carrier.

A 50,000m³ storage tank is also planned in the long term to store liquified blue or green hydrogen imported on a 160,000m³ hydrogen carrier, while a hydrogen refuelling facility will also be needed to service FC logistics vehicles, according to the draft proposal.

Fukushima's hydrogen potential has drawn interest from Japan's manufacturing sectors, including the car industry, as the country works to achieve a decarbonisation by 2050.

The draft proposal on Onahama's decarbonisation has been put together following discussions in a group of representatives from the transport ministry's Tohoku regional bureau and local governments, and various manufacturing industries. The participating companies included IHI, Jera, carmaker Toyota Motor, trader Mitsubishi, engineering firm Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, industrial gas firm Iwatani and metals firm Toho Zinc.


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