U.K. body urges Japan to reconsider CO2 storage, ammonia fuel policy

© Kyodo News

A British research group has urged Japan to reconsider promoting carbon capture and storage and a so-called integrated gasification combined cycle because such technologies are not only costly but do not significantly cut the country's carbon dioxide emissions.

In a report released this month, London-based climate data provider TransitionZero said Japan instead should focus more on offshore wind power it said could "unlock tremendous renewable energy potential" in the fight against global warming.

Referring to the IGCC, which applies high pressure on coal to turn it into gas, and co-firing coal with ammonia, the group said Japan's "advanced coal technologies" are "expensive with limited potential" and will not help achieve the government's goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

Environmentalists have been criticizing Japan for lagging behind other industrialized nations in phasing out coal-fired power plants.

The group recommended that Japan "re-evaluate" and "reconsider" the roles of ammonia co-firing for power generation and IGCC, and "be prudent" with its limited storage sites when investing in carbon capture and storage, or CCS, capabilities.

According to TransitionZero analysis, carbon emission per kilowatt hour of IGCC is expected to be 670 grams in 2030, with that of 20-percent co-firing of ammonia at 693 grams.

Those figures are around "five times higher than the Japanese energy grid needs to be in 2030 to align with" a net-zero pathway.

In addition, the average cost of such technologies is $200 per megawatt hour, more than double that of solar power.

As for CCS, a technique used to store carbon deep in the ground, the group said it is "not a sustainable solution," given "Japan's limited geological storage" whose capacity could run out in just a decade.

The report also expressed skepticism over the prospect of atomic energy, saying the restarts of nuclear power plants in Japan, shut down after the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, are "still politically contentious and largely uncertain."

The report came after the government approved its latest long-term energy plan in October, setting a target of making renewables account for 36 to 38 percent of total power generation capacity in fiscal 2030, more than twice the 18 percent recorded in fiscal 2019, which ended in March 2020.

Pledging to support advanced technologies such as IGCC and CCS, the plan also aims to nearly halve the amount coming from thermal power sources to 41 percent in fiscal 2030 from about 75 percent in fiscal 2019.

The plan also targets nuclear power to account for 20 to 22 percent of Japan's total power generation in fiscal 2030, compared with 6 percent in fiscal 2019 as most of the nuclear reactors remained offline due to stricter safety rules introduced after the Fukushima disaster.