TOKYO – Japan plans to build a hydrogen supply network that includes Australia and Brunei as it aims to import 300,000 tonnes of fuel a year around 2030.
Hiroshi Kajiyama, minister of economy, trade and industry, presented his vision of a hydrogen-based society on Wednesday at the virtual Hydrogen Energy Ministerial Meeting. Proof of concept trials will be conducted prior to full launch.
The three countries will work together to lower the cost of hydrogen to compete with fossil fuels, laying out a viable pathway to reduce their carbon footprint.
The key to low cost hydrogen is extraction from lignite coal, which is abundant in Australia. Due to its poor quality, lignite is not shipped widely worldwide and costs are low.
A trial operation will be set up in Australia to separate hydrogen from lignite. Carbon emissions during the hydrogen production process will be reduced through capture and storage technology.
First in the world liquid hydrogen carrier, built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, will begin transporting hydrogen to Japan in early February or March.
In Brunei, a plant extracting hydrogen from natural gas was completed in 2019, and deliveries to Japan have begun.
The Japanese government aims to lower the cost of hydrogen to 30 yen (28 cents) per so-called normal cubic meter by around 2030. The final target is around 20 yen.
Hydrogen will then be considered as a competitive fuel with liquefied natural gas after accounting for a lighter environmental load.
The targeted 300,000 tonnes of hydrogen is roughly equivalent to the output to a nuclear reactor.
The government wants hydrogen to achieve the same cost competitiveness as LNG power plants. To make this happen, the volume of hydrogen obtained must be around 5 million tonnes to 10 million tonnes per year.
While Japan looks to hydrogen overseas, more domestic companies are starting to produce it domestically. This year, one of the largest hydrogen extraction facilities started operating in Fukushima Prefecture. The electricity that comes from solar panels separates the hydrogen from the water. The hydrogen output is said to be sufficient to fill 560 fuel cell vehicles a day.
Both Australia and Brunei depend on exports of coal and crude oil. Facing pressure to back away from coal, they will partner with Japan in the hydrogen trade.