Japanese government to develop ports capable of accepting hydrogen tankers

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File photo of the Yomiuri Shimbun
The Suiso Frontier, the world’s first liquefied hydrogen carrier, docked at the port of Kobe in May last year.

The government plans to build ports capable of accommodating hydrogen tankers.

As the world strives to decarbonize, demand for hydrogen is expected to increase in areas such as power generation and transportation. To ensure a stable supply of hydrogen, the government plans to include a policy of building a maritime transport network in the Ocean Policy Basic Plan which will be revised around May next year.

Based on the Basic Ocean Policy Act established in 2007, the Basic Ocean Policy Plan defines a comprehensive set of maritime measures to be implemented. In principle, the plan is revised approximately every five years — the current plan was adopted in May 2018.

Japan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 46% by fiscal year 2030 based on 2013 levels and achieve carbon neutrality by effectively reducing emissions to zero by 2050. The government , which expects hydrogen to become a next-generation fuel because it does not produce greenhouse gases when burned, aims to increase annual hydrogen consumption to 20 million tonnes by 2050 from its current figure of 2 million tonnes.

Cost reduction, however, remains a challenge. The Natural Resources and Energy Agency estimates that it currently costs about ¥170 to procure a cubic meter of hydrogen, but the government wants to reduce that number by about 80% to ¥30 by 2030. For this, it is necessary to develop a supply chain to enable a stable supply of hydrogen on a large scale.

As a possible model, the government is considering a demonstration experiment conducted by the CO2-free Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain Technology Research Association (HySTRA), comprising Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., Iwatani Corp. and other companies. In February, HySTRA transported liquefied hydrogen produced in Australia to the port of Kobe using a hydrogen carrier with a tank capacity of 1,250 cubic meters. The experiment marked the first-ever large-scale transport of liquefied hydrogen by sea in the world.

According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, the port of Kobe is the only port in Japan currently capable of receiving hydrogen tankers. The government is therefore asking municipalities managing ports across the country to estimate their future hydrogen needs and will base its future development plans on reports from municipalities, local conditions and other factors.

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