Major corporate and public sector partners in Japan are launching an effort to test a full carbon-neutral hydrogen supply chain powered by renewable wind energy. The trials are planned to take place near the cities of Yokohama and Kawasaki in the Keihin coastal region.
On the public sector side, the project is being implemented by the Kanagawa Prefectural Government, Yokohama City, and Kawasaki City. The four private sector participants are Iwatani Corporation, Toshiba Corporation, Toyota Motor Corporation, and Toyota Turbine and Systems Inc. In addition, the project will be supported by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment.
While hydrogen is most commonly created through steam methane reforming, it can also be created from water through electrolysis. This requires electricity, still typically produced using fossil-fuel-burning power plants. Since the overall environmental benefit of hydrogen is only as strong as the method used to produce it, global research initiatives around the world are dedicated to developing large-scale carbon-neutral projects that use renewable energy to power hydrogen production.
Under this trial project, wind power will be used to turn water into oxygen and hydrogen, with the latter stored for use locally. Grid power will only be used for backup when absolutely necessary and excess renewable energy produced may even be sold to utility companies.
As plans currently stand, the project will involve:
- A system to produce hydrogen by electrolysis using wind power
- A system to optimize storage and transportation of hydrogen produced
- Use of fuel cell forklifts
- A hydrogen supply chain feasibility study (hydrogen price, CO2 reduction, etc.)
The total project duration is expected to take place over four years. At this stage, the project partners are still discussing specifics. Implementation is set to begin from April 2016 onward.
A committee has been established, with Dr. Kenichiro Ota (Prof. Emeritus, Yokohama National University) and Dr. Yoji Uchiyama (Prof. Emeritus, University of Tsukuba) participating as academic experts. The committee will discuss the direction of the project, as well as establishing a project-wide communications framework and will determine issues that require further research after the trial has finished.
Changes to the trial’s plan and content may occur as a result of ongoing discussions between the project partners and the Ministry of the Environment.