OSLO/MELBOURNE/TOKYO Norway and Australia are racing each other to show they can supply Japan with hydrogen, hoping to fulfill its ambition to become the first nation significantly fueled by the super-clean energy source.
While Australia has planned to derive liquid hydrogen from brown coal for some time, Norway could steal a march if a pilot project producing the fuel using renewable energy – a climate-friendly method more in keeping with Japan’s aims – is cheaper.
Japan is betting heavily on becoming a “hydrogen society” despite the high costs and technical difficulties which have generally slowed its adoption as a carbon-free fuel.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing his vision of vehicles, houses and power stations using hydrogen to end Japan’s energy crisis since the 2011 Fukushima disaster, which led to a dramatic drop in electricity production from its nuclear plants.
The country’s annual hydrogen and fuel cell market is forecast to hit 1 trillion yen ($9 billion) in 2030 and 8 trillion yen in 2050, according to the industry ministry.
Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) is developing a supply chain to back Abe’s initiative, which will be showcased when Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympic games.
KHI has been looking at using brown coal from the Australian state of Victoria, where supplies are plentiful. However, it is hedging its bets with a project in Norway to derive hydrogen using power from hydroelectric dams and eventually wind farms.
Using Australian coal requires removing its climate-changing carbon and burying it in old oil or gas wells there.
In Norway, KHI has teamed up with Nel Hydrogen, a maker of hydrogen plants, with backers including Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp and Norway’s Statoil. The project aims to demonstrate that liquefied hydrogen (LH2) can be produced using renewables and delivered to Japan on tankers.
Nel Hydrogen’s market development vice-president Bjorn Simonsen told Reuters the company aims to deliver liquefied hydrogen to Japan for a…