Hydrogen Energy Update A promising image of a “hydrogen-based society” is emerging now
(in provisional translation)
(English ver.) 2020-06-10
Hydrogen has two outstanding characteristics. First, it can be made from various resources. Second, it does not emit CO2 while being utilized as energy. Thus, it is expected to be a next-generation source of energy. Previous issues of “Special Contents” highlighted various efforts for expanding the use of hydrogen. In this article, we will provide an update of the progress toward the “hydrogen-based society” that Japan aims to build in the future.
Efforts toward the utilization of hydrogen energy bearing fruit
The government of Japan and various private enterprises are using all efforts to carry out demonstration projects with a view to building a “hydrogen-based society” ahead of other countries.
Some of those ongoing efforts are gradually taking shape, while others are actually close to materialization. Let’s see how hydrogen energy is being utilized now in 2020.
The world’s first “liquefied hydrogen carrier” launched
Hydrogen can be made from various types of resources. If it could be mass-produced stably and economically from waste materials and low-quality resources that are otherwise unused and unrecovered, it would greatly improve energy security.
“Brown coal” is a type of low quality coal with huge reserves in Australia. It has limited applications domestically due to the difficulties associated with transportation. The “Brown Coal to Hydrogen Project” (Demonstration Project for Establishment of Mass Hydrogen Marine Transportation Supply Chain Derived from Unused Brown Coal) is now underway for hydrogen produced in Australia to be transported to Japan.
This project demonstrates two stages in the supply chain, namely the stage where hydrogen is produced from Australian brown coal, and the stage where the hydrogen is transported to Japan. In order to transport liquefied hydrogen in a large quantity over a long distance, a “liquefied hydrogen carrier” is needed. The world’s first carrier capable of this is named “Suiso Frontier” and was launched on December 11, 2019 (top picture). It will be used for this project.
“Suiso Frontier” was built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, a member company of the consortium leading the project, named “CO2 Free Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain Technology Research Association (HySTRA)”. Liquefied hydrogen tanks will be installed on board the carrier by the autumn of 2020. The first voyage from Australia to Japan is scheduled for the early part of 2021 with the first cargo of hydrogen on board.
Hydrogenation plant constructed in Brunei to demonstrate transportation of hydrogen to Japan
Demonstration is also underway elsewhere in the world whereby hydrogen is produced from unused energy resources for transportation to Japan.
In Brunei, the “Advanced Hydrogen Energy Chain Association for Technology Development (AHEAD)” has implemented a project to demonstrate the “Hydrogen Supply Chain utilizing the Organic Chemical Hydride Method”.
Hydrogen is not suitable for transportation in its original gaseous state. Through a chemical reaction with another substance, it is converted into an organic compound in a liquid state, which is easier to store and transport. This process is known as the “Organic Chemical Hydride Method”. The demonstration project makes data available, which will help to design, construct and operate a supply chain on a commercial scale.
On November 27, 2019, a ceremony to celebrate the completion of the hydrogenation plant was held. This plant forms a part of the world’s first hydrogen supply chain, and hydrogen produced in Brunei is already being transported to Japan.
Once a “dehydrogenation plant” is commissioned in Japan to extract hydrogen from the organic compound in a liquid state, the project to demonstrate a global hydrogen supply chain will begin full-fledged operation.
“Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field” moves into a performance test stage
The “Fukushima Plan for a New Energy Society” is formulated with a view to contributing to the reconstruction of Fukushima by transforming the whole of Fukushima Prefecture to a model for a future society utilizing “new energy” such as renewables and hydrogen. This plan is backed by the government of Japan and Fukushima Prefecture, as well as research institutes, local business circles, utility companies and renewable energy enterprises.
One of the major pillars of this plan is to create a model for a future hydrogen based society where hydrogen will be produced by renewables, stored, transported and utilized. Hydrogen produced from renewables will not emit any CO2 during the production process.
The “Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field (FH2R)” has been constructed in Namie Town, Fukushima Prefecture to help realize such a society. Hydrogen is to be produced by electricity generated by solar power facilities built on the Research Field.
Facilities were completed and performance tests for each piece of equipment started from October, 2019. The water “electrolyzer” installed on the Research Field, which produces hydrogen through water electrolysis, is the world largest-class electrolyzer with a capacity of 10 MW. Daily production of hydrogen from this system can meet demand equal to filling up 560 fuel cell vehicles (FCV’s).
In March, 2020, the production and delivery of hydrogen will start with the aim of supplying hydrogen to Tokyo during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, where about 500 FCV’s will be used as official vehicles. Hydrogen will also be used for the Olympic flame and some of the sacred relay torches, for the first time in the history of the Olympics. Hydrogen produced in Namie Town will also be used as fuel for the Olympic flame. You will soon see hydrogen, a promising future source of energy, radiating on the prominent stage of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games as a symbol of all the reconstruction efforts underway in Fukushima and branding this Olympics as the “Reconstruction Olympics”.
Hydrogen stations being deregulated for further utilization of hydrogen energy
The government of Japan published its visons for the future and action plans such as the “Basic Strategies for Hydrogen” and the “Roadmap for Hydrogen/Fuel Cell Strategies” in order to support further utilization of hydrogen energy. One of the efforts the government is making is the dissemination and maintenance of hydrogen stations where FCV’s and FC buses are filled up with hydrogen just like conventional vehicles are filled up with petrol at petrol stations.
Hydrogen stations are spreading steadily. On January 16, 2020, “Tokyo Gas Toyosu Hydrogen Station” opened, which can supply not only FCV’s but also FC buses with hydrogen. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government aims to have more than 100 FC buses running by 2020, which are expected to be supplied with hydrogen at this station. Toyosu Hydrogen Station was constructed with subsidies under METI’s “Subsidization Scheme to Promote Hydrogen Stations for Dissemination of FCV’s”.
Measures for the dissemination of hydrogen stations include the relaxation of related regulations.
Remote-monitored, unmanned hydrogen stations are now under consideration so that FCV users are allowed to self-serve their vehicles. A hydrogen station is equipped with a compressor to boost its pressure to an adequate level, a pressurized vessel to contain the hydrogen, a pre-cooler to cool the hydrogen, and a nozzle to supply the hydrogen to vehicles. In order to ensure the safety of such equipment at a hydrogen station, currently the staff must fill up FCV’s as a rule in Japan. Now that self-service hydrogen stations are spreading in Europe, safety measures are being studied in Japan toward switching to self-service hydrogen stations.
The following rules are under consideration to ensure the safety at self-service hydrogen stations.
- The operation of each device is to be remote-monitored by a supervisor.
- Necessary measures are to be taken to ensure that FCV users can self-serve their vehicles safely and securely.
- In the case of an emergency, each device is to be shut down by remote control, and the staff are to go to the site immediately.
As deregulation progresses in line with technological innovation, it is hoped that the spread of hydrogen stations will make FCV’s much easier to use.
Japan leads international collaboration on hydrogen as a promising source of energy
As the movement toward “decarbonization” is accelerating, various countries, corporations and organizations are looking at hydrogen as a promising source of energy.
Efforts are being made in various areas, even in the field of entertainment. At U2’s Tokyo concerts on December 4 and 5, 2019, the world-famous rock band played “Hydrogen Powered Rock ’n’ Roll” with their musical equipment powered by hydrogen made from renewables.
The hydrogen side event of the 2019 International Energy Agency (IEA) Ministerial Meeting was chaired by Mr. Matsumoto, State Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan, and H.E. Wiebes, Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy of the Netherlands, in Paris on December 5, 2019. Minister Matsumoto delivered a keynote speech at the side event. The critical role of hydrogen as a key contributor to clean energy transitions, proposed in the IEA Report, was discussed there. The outline of the discussions was published in the Chairs’ summary with the following statements included:“Japan’s leadership was welcomed.” “For the scale-up of the production and use of hydrogen, there was broad support to the IEA’s recommendation for concrete near-term actions where appropriate, namely supporting the use of hydrogen in high mileage cars and trucks, and starting international hydrogen trade.”
Mr. Kajiyama, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, while visiting Australia, signed（January 10, 2020） a joint statement on cooperation on hydrogen and fuel cells between the two countries, concerning cooperation toward the success of the Japan-Australia Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain Project (Brown Coal to Hydrogen Project), and joint efforts in other new areas.
As described above, Japan, in cooperation with other countries, is steadily intensifying its efforts toward realization of a hydrogen-based society. As the use of hydrogen is gaining momentum, you may see such a society in the not too distant future.
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Advanced Energy Systems and Structure Division，Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Department
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Research and Public Relations Office, Policy Planning and Coordination Division, Commissioner's Secretariat
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