2022 OCI The Decarbonization Potential of Ammonia as Fuel for Co-firing
Around 20% percent of European electricity is generated from coal and 17% from natural gas. Here, too, the differences between countries are large. Coal-fired power plants account for a particularly high share of electricity generation in Germany, Russia, Poland and Ukraine, whereas gas-fired power plants in Belgium, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal and the Netherlands – i.e. primarily in countries that do not have a high level of nuclear power generation. According to the European Energy Agency, the EU’s GHG emission intensity of electricity generation is on average 275 gCO2e/kWh. From a regulatory perspective, the delegated
regulation (EU) 2022/1214 complementing the EU Taxonomy Regulation includes specific GHG reduction targets and requirements to drastically cut emissions by implementing combustion of gas, mixed with low-carbon energy sources.
In general, gas-fired power plants must have greenhouse gas emissions of less than 100 g CO2/kWh. New gas-fired power plants that receive a permit by the end of December 2030 must demonstrate that:
• The electricity generated cannot yet be efficiently produced by renewables.
• Gas-fired power plant replaces an existing plant with higher emissions and the emissions reduction per kWh is at least 55 per cent.
• The facility is designed and constructed to use renewable and/or low-carbon gaseous fuels and the switch to full use of renewable and/or low-carbon gaseous fuels takes place by 31 December 2035.
• A coal phase-out is planned in the country concerned and laid down in an official plan.
The aforementioned cuts in GHG emissions from thermal power generation would probably only be achievable with CCS or CCUS, which at this stage may be inefficient and costly in those cases where thermal power plants still have many years of useful life. Blending fossil fuel with low-carbon fuels, allows utilization of existing production, transportation, and storage infrastructure, making it a cost-effective solution and easy to implement in the short term.
The Taxonomy classification will likely stimulate private-sector investment. Due to the high construction costs and time delays of nuclear power plants and the currently high gas prices, low-carbon fuels could be cheaper and more cost-effective compared to fossil fuel alternatives.
Finally, co-firing experiments done in demonstration facilities have shown that using a 10 MWth-class combustion test furnace coupled with 20% ammonia co-firing rates, N2O emissions are under detection limits (>100ppm), whereas NOx emissions stay within the same range as usual emissions in coal power plants.