TOKYO: Japan’s plan to co-fire coal power plants with ammonia in a bid to decarbonise its electricity sector could increase a different type of air pollution linked to millions of premature deaths globally each year, according to new analysis.
Burning ammonia doesn’t emit carbon dioxide, but it does release fine particulate matter known as PM2.5, according to a report from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).
Japan’s energy transition plan, which aims to extend the life of its fossil fuel plants by co-firing the facilities with ammonia and hydrogen, has faced criticism as most of its peers pivot more quickly to renewable generation.
The authors estimated emissions for Jera Co’s Hekinan Thermal Power Station Unit 4, which has been revamped over the past few years to allow it to use both coal and ammonia.
Co-firing the facility with 50% ammonia would increase total emissions of PM2.5 and precursor gases by 167% through both the shipping and combustion of the fuel, according to the CREA, which is based in Helsinki.
“Air quality in Japan has improved significantly due to decades of scientific research, environmental policy and investments in air pollution mitigation technologies,’’ Lauri Myllyvirta and Jamie Kelly said in the report.
“Our results indicate that Japanese improvements in air quality could be undermined, or even offset, by replacing coal’’ with ammonia, they said.
PM2.5 contributes to as many as eight million premature deaths globally annually, and in Japan it leads to roughly 43,000 premature deaths a year, CREA said, citing data from State of Global Air, a website funded by the Clear Air Fund.
Global premature deaths combined with non-fatal health illnesses caused by PM2.5, cost the world economy US$8 trillion (RM36 trillion), equivalent to 6.1% of global gross domestic product, the authors said, citing World Bank data.
The fine particulate matter is roughly 30% of the diameter of a human hair. —Bloomberg