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Japan takes a major step toward a hydrogen-based economy

By Tetsuo Satoh |

A Japanese consortium has started the construction of the Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field (FH2R), which is said to be the world’s largest hydrogen-based energy system — a step towards a hydrogen-based economy. Located in Namie-cho, Fukushima Prefecture, FH2R will operate a 10-MW class hydrogen-production facility that will start operation in 2020, after final tests to verify the technologies. Hydrogen produced at FH2R will be used to power fuel cell vehicles and to support factory operations.

The consortium — comprised of the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO; Kawasaki; www.nedo.go.jp), Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions Corp. (Kawasaki; www.toshiba-energy.com), Tohoku Electric Power Co., Inc. (Sendai; www.tohoku-epco.co.jp) and Iwatani Corp.(Tokyo; www.iwatani.co.jp) — aims to contribute to the realization of a hydrogen economy, which is being promoted by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). METI’s guiding policy statement, “Basic Hydrogen Strategy,” strives to industrialize the power-to-gas technology for storing surplus renewable energy. The power-to-gas technology utilizing H2 requires not only a grid balancing function, to make the maximum use of fluctuating renewable energy, but also the optimal system operation function, based on the forecasting of H2 supply and demand.

H2, a concentrated energy source that can be stored for long periods and transported over long distances, has emerged as the fuel of choice for fuel cells and fuel-cell vehicles. Its other advantages are that it can be generated with renewable energy sources, and when used as a fuel the only byproduct of which is hot water — a cycle that is expected to be completely CO2-free.

FH2R will produce (using renewable energy) and store up to 900 ton/yr of H2. It will use a new control system to coordinate overall operation of the H2 energy system, the power grid control system, and the H2-demand-forecast system, so as to optimize H2 production, H2-based electricity generation and H2 gas supply.

The system (diagram) will use H 2 to offset grid loads, and deliver H 2 to locations in Tohoku and beyond, and will seek to demonstrate the advantages of H 2 as a solution in grid balancing and as a H 2 gas supply. Compressed H 2 will be transported in trailers and supplied to users.

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