Woodside steps on the gas for ammonia fuel

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Oil and gas firm Woodside Energy says it has signed a research deal with Japanese energy giants that brings ammonia exports from Australia a step closer.

As northern Asia looks for an alternative fuel for heavy industry, power generation and shipping, Woodside announced on Thursday that it will do further work with Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, Marubeni, Hokuriku Electric, Kansai Electric, Tohoku Electric and Hokkaido Electric on a potential supply chain.

Ammonia is expected to have early take-up as a "lower-emission fuel", given proven technologies for its production, storage and transportation, according to Woodside.

Japan's latest strategic energy plan backs ammonia-fuelled power generation as one of the most promising options for decarbonising power sources and achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

A joint feasibility study last year examined the production of lower-emissions ammonia in Australia from gas.

As part of phase two of the project, the firms will fine-tune whether a supply chain is viable.

A separate study is already examining whether "clean" ammonia could boost shipping at Western Australia's marine export terminals.

Global producer Yara and the Pilbara Ports Authority in July agreed to begin a feasibility study on ammonia as a marine fuel at Port Hedland - the world's largest bulk export terminal - and other northwest ports.

Norway-based Yara owns a major ammonia plant near Karratha, with its output sold as a key raw ingredient in fertiliser.

Its potential use as a marine fuel could help to decarbonise shipping, which accounts for two to three per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

More than 17,000 ships, including those used by major mining companies, travel through the Pilbara ports every year.