A sustainable match

Integrating ammonia into the hydrogen-fuel world

With the chemical’s proven versatility, forces like GE, IHI, and METI may one day make ammonia’s challenges to fuel gas turbines a thing of the past.

Whether it’s improved as a carrier for hydrogen, a reliable coolant, or in new ways to make power greener and better, ammonia combustion technologies are on the rise, with GE more than ready to discover its true potential. 

Understanding the basics

How does it work?

The growing global interest in carbon free fuels has opened the door for a range of hydrogen alternatives, including ammonia, whose primary use today is in the production of fertilizer. Take a journey through the process from start to finish.

Ammonia infographic

Your questions answered!

What is ammonia, and what role does it play?

How is ammonia used?

Ammonia is one of the most widely produced chemicals in the world today, with more than 170 million tonnes being produced each year. More than 85% of this goes into agriculture as fertilizer.

Ammonia is also used in many common things we depend on. It can be used as a:

  • cooling gas
  • water purifier
  • cleaning products
  • part of plastics and textiles
  • part of pesticides, dyes, and more

How is ammonia produced?

Ammonia is produced through the “Haber-Bosch process”. Here, hydrogen (H2) is mixed with nitrogen (N), reacting together at high temperatures and high pressures to produce ammonia—or NH3.


Why is there such new interest in ammonia and energy?

The new interest in ammonia stems from its potential as a hydrogen carrier to enable and/or reduce the OpEx of long-distance hydrogen transport.

Ammonia is easier to liquefy than hydrogen (-33 °C versus -253 °C for H2). Liquefied-ammonia storage facilities exist globally, and pipeline distribution systems can be found in some countries, including the U.S. 

Source: The Royal Society Ammonia Policy Briefing

Chemical plant for production of ammonia and nitrogen fertilization on night time.

Can ammonia emit CO2 when utilized as a fuel?

As of today, ammonia does release CO2 while it’s produced. But as a carbon-free compound it won’t emit CO2 while used as a fuel. That said, an ammonia gas turbine has the potential to help lower the power sector’s carbon emissions.

Japan, for instance, has announced specific goals for ammonia to be used in power generation. The Ministry of Economics, Trade, and Industry’s (METI) initial focus is on co-firing of ammonia with coal in thermal power plants to reduce CO2 emissions. Gas turbines could follow.


What are the technical challenges of using ammonia as a gas turbine fuel?

Will there be a Ge ammonia gas turbine? Not just yet!

While Japan’s METI and others break ground to use ammonia as an energy source, there are inherent challenges that require additional engineering: 

  • Ammonia burns slower than natural gas (i.e., lower reactivity), and may be harder to ignite than natural gas.
  • The reduced reactivity (relative to methane) may create operability issues.
  • Due to operability and safety concerns, a start-up fuel may be required.
  • Ammonia is toxic and will require new power plant safety systems.

What kind of policy supports ammonia as a part of power generation?

Like Japan, governments around the world with net-zero emissions goals are exploring technology roadmaps for ammonia production and transportation at scale.

Accordingly, GE recently announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with IHI Corporation. As a leading heavy industry manufacturer based in Japan, IHI’s experience and resources can only add speed to the development of ammonia-capable HD gas turbines alongside GE. The future joint development aims to see ammonia-run turbines generating electricity with reduced—or near zero—CO₂ emissions. 

Hydrogen as a fuel for gas turbines

Did you know GE’s gas turbines are already using hydrogen as a source of energy? Let GE’s Fuel Guy, Jeff Goldmeer, walk you through how hydrogen can be used as a power generation fuel and ammonia’s role in its storage and transportation.

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