Photo/Illutration A coal-fired power plant in Hekinan, Aichi Prefecture, plans to conduct an experiment on using ammonia as fuel by mixing it with coal. (Provided by JERA Co.)

The industry ministry established a council Oct. 27 to promote using ammonia as fuel at coal-fired power plants after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga vowed to bring Japan's net carbon footprint to zero by 2050.

Suga made the pledge on greenhouse gas emissions during his inaugural policy speech to the Diet on Oct. 26.

The new council will work to bring ammonia into practical use as a fuel source to help achieve that goal.

The council is made up of eight companies, including manufacturers of power generation equipment and electric power companies, and related government organizations. It will discuss how to secure supply routes for ammonia and other related issues, with an interim report expected by around next spring.

Ammonia can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions if it becomes widely used as fuel, since it emits no carbon dioxide when burned, officials said.

One of the big challenges with turning to ammonia as a fuel source is ensuring a stable supply. Replacing 20 percent of the fuel at all coal-fired plants across the nation with ammonia will require almost the same amount of the total global trade volume of ammonia, according to the ministry.

Still, the government and the power industry have started to pin their hopes on ammonia as a prospective game changer.

An experiment is already under way to mix ammonia with coal at coal-fired plants to reduce emissions.

JERA Co., the nation’s biggest power generating company, aims to replace all the fuel at its coal-fired plants with ammonia in or after the 2040s.