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Updated May 26, 2022
Japan Offshore Design & Engineering Platform Technology & Engineering Research Association (J-DeEP) and Scottish Development International co-develop a floating hydrogen production plant that combines desalination systems and electrolysis equipment and uses surplus electricity from wind turbines to produce hydrogen. The J-DeEP has begun feasibility study on the project, and build hydrogen production plants in offshore wind farms along the coast of Scotland. 

ClassNK has completed safety assessment and issued an Approval in Principle (AiP) for J-DeEP’s design. The project helps reduce wind curtailment and increase green hydrogen production, ramping up pursuit of energy independency, as Japan dedicates to become a hydrogen economy.

Japan’s hydrogen developing plan for 2030 and 2050

Japan treats hydrogen as one of its key developing projects to increase energy self-sufficiency and achieve net-zero by 2050. The country published “Basic Hydrogen Strategy” in 2017, under which hydrogen developing plans and targets to be attained by 2030 are set, officially putting hydrogen into its renewable developing plan. In 2019, it revised “The Strategic Road Map for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells,” providing concrete guidance on implementation, technology specs, and detailed cost analysis and goals.  

In December 2020, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) issued the “Green Growth Strategy,” which was updated to “Green Growth Strategy Through Achieving Carbon Neutrality in 2050” in June 2021, in which hydrogen was listed as one of the 14 promising fields that are expected to grow.

Japan’s major hydrogen developing targets are as followed. 

1.Expand hydrogen supply chain and hydrogen power generation: Raise hydrogen consumption to 3,000,000 MT and 20,000,000 MT, reduce production costs to 30 and 20 Japanese dollars per Nm3 by 2030 and 2050, respectively

2.Expand and commercialize application in transportation sector: Use more fuel cell vehicles (FCV) and set up more hydrogen fueling stations. As of 2021, Japan has 6,000 FCVs and 166 fueling stations. The figures are expected to increase to 200,000 FCVs and 320 fueling stations by 2025, and 800,000 FCVs and 1,000 fueling stations by 2030

3.Cut electrolysis equipment costs for better export advantages: Costs drop to JP$ 50,000/kW, electricity required to produce 1 Nm3 of hydrogen through electrolysis declines from 5kWh to 4.3 kWh, and efficiency rises by 16.3% by 2030

Current focus on blue hydrogen

To achieve net-zero, Japan develops renewable energy actively. But for hydrogen, it first focuses on cost reduction, popularization, blue hydrogen, and international transportation.

Japan partners with Australia to build a hydrogen supply chain between the two. The project is to produce hydrogen from lignite in Latrobe Valley of the state of Victoria, liquifying hydrogen to -253°C to minimize its volume, and then ship the liquified hydrogen to Kobe, Japan on hydrogen transportation vessel, Suiso Frontier. The first batch of hydrogen production was delivered in February 2022, which was the world’s first transportation of liquified hydrogen. Presently, the project is still in pilot stage and is scheduled to commercialize by 2030. This consolidates the Japan-Australia hydrogen supply chain and set milestone for the development of hydrogen transportation.

The project deals with emissions from coal burning through carbon capture and storage (CCUS), discharges them deep in the sea of Australia, and this reduces at least 1,800,000 MT of carbon emissions every year in the optimistic scenario. However, some experts have doubts in CCUS. Blue hydrogen only reduces limited amount of carbon emissions and has the risk of methane leaks. Methane is a stronger greenhouse gas than CO2. Given technical immaturity, high costs, and certain risks, the emitted carbon is “archived,” with coping measures remain obscured for the coming decades.

Presently, blue hydrogen and green hydrogen each costs $7-10/kg and $10-15/kg, hinging on costs of renewable supplies. Since renewables are still expensive in Japan, blue hydrogen can help the country realize hydrogen production goal, popularize the use of hydrogen. But it will only work for a transitional phase towards net-zero. When prices for renewables decline to a certain level, it will be easier for green hydrogen to tap into the market. By then, green hydrogen will be cheaper than blue hydrogen. Therefore, whilst producing and importing blue hydrogen, Japan should ramp up its investments in green hydrogen and electrolysis equipment.

Hydrogen in Taiwan

Taiwan has been working on hydrogen in recent years. In September 2021, the Industrial Technology Research Institute signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Marketech International Corp. and Asia Hydrogen Energy Corp. on power generation with recycled residual hydrogen. The plan is to form a national hydrogen generation team, setting up a New Fuel Cell Parameter Optimization Demonstration Site in Shalun Green Energy Technology Demonstration Site. In March 2022, the government published “Pathway to Net-Zero Emissions in 2050,” aiming to promote green hydrogen and hydrogen production from surplus electricity. This blueprint identifies hydrogen as one of the 12 key strategies.

Despite starting earlier than Japan in the offshore wind sector, Taiwan is lagging far behind Japan when it comes to hydrogen. In addition, renewable supplies are scant, and clean electricity is bought up by semiconductor manufactures. Given insufficient clean electricity, high hydrogen production costs, and low technology readiness, Taiwan still has a long way to go from scaled clean electricity hydrogen production.