Energy: hydrogen in the spotlight in the context of the Ukrainian crisis

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Japan Racing Association

Amid growing concerns about securing stable supply of fossil fuels like LNG (liquefied natural gas) and coal with the tense situation in Ukraine, efforts are underway to use hydrogen, which does not emit of carbon dioxide when burned.

A ceremony on April 9 in Kobe marked the successful demonstration of a test case in which liquefied hydrogen was transported from Australia to Japan. To celebrate this achievement, government officials, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, were present.

Expectations for the early commercialization of hydrogen are growing, with proposals for support measures to expand its introduction in Japan.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at the ceremony marking the successful supply of liquefied hydrogen between Japan and Australia. Kobe, April 9, 2022. (Photo by Yuta Okamoto)

Global circumstances call for policy change

During the ceremony, Prime Minister Kishida underlined: “Previous policies of securing energy supply are seriously questioned in the context of the Ukrainian crisis”.

“A balance must be struck between ensuring a stable energy supply and achieving carbon neutrality, and the solution is hydrogen,” the prime minister said, adding that Japan was ready to take “measures of audacious support”.

Successful test scenario

The test case was carried out by a joint partnership of seven companies, including Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. and Iwatani Corporation. It demonstrated how international maritime transport of liquefied hydrogen could operate on a large scale, using the world’s first liquefied hydrogen container ship.

The transport vessel, named Suiso Frontier, left the port of Kobe in December 2021 for Australia. When it arrived, the ship was loaded with liquefied hydrogen produced from lignite, or brown coal, an inexpensive coal mined in the country. The ship then returned to Kobe in February.

Cost is the biggest challenge in building a liquefied hydrogen supply network in the future. Reducing the cost of transport by increasing the size of ships and tanks therefore becomes an important factor. Further hydrogen fuel transport tests between Japan and Australia are planned, while Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Iwatani aim to commercialize the project around 2030.

Prime Minister Kishida (centre) and other participants at the ceremony marking the success of the liquefied hydrogen shipment between Japan and Australia. (Photo by Yuta Okamoto)

Central role in achieving Net Zero

Hydrogen is “supposed to play a central role in the era of carbon neutrality” in Japan’s basic energy plan, as it can be used in a wide variety of applications by industry as well as in homes.

Meanwhile, the government has announced its intention to gradually reduce or ban imports of Russian coal.

Japan is committed to pursuing a carbon-free society. There is an urgent need to use hydrogen as an alternative energy source to fossil fuels.

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(Read the report in Japanese on this link.)

Author: Yuta Okamoto

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