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The Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field, the world’s largest hydrogen-production facility, began operation in 2020 and constitutes a giant leap towards the realisation of a hydrogen society in Japan
The Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field, the world’s largest hydrogen-production facility, began operation in 2020 and constitutes a giant leap towards the realisation of a hydrogen society in Japan

Touted as the nation with one of the biggest carbon emissions in the world, Japan is now taking fruitful steps towards carbon neutrality and decarbonisation

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Published: Sun 12 Dec 2021, 3:55 PM

At the COP26 held at Glasgow in November 2021, the newly appointed Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged net-zero by 2050. In a speech at the gathering, he said: "Japan will realise this goal under our newly adopted long-term strategy. I assure that Japan aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 46 per cent in the fiscal year 2030 from its fiscal year 2013 levels, and that Japan will continue strenuous efforts in its challenge to meet the lofty goal of cutting its emissions by 50 per cent."

At a webinar with Khaleej Times, Daisuke Suginoo, Assistant Director, Energy Strategy Office, Policy Planning and Coordination Division, Commissioner's Secretariat, Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI), talked about why Japan is taking preventative measures to counteract carbon emissions.

Suginoo says: "Japan emits a large volume of CO2 every year. As critical conditions arise due to climate change, it is paramount that Japan takes corrective measures. 90% of all the CO2 emissions is energy related. Keeping that goal in mind, the new Strategic Energy Plan announced in October 2021, aims to show the path of the energy policy to realise carbon neutrality by 2050 and new GHG emission reduction target in FY2030. The new plan indicates the overall direction of the country's policy. The message also includes that not only dealing with climate change is important but ensuring security and stability of the supply is also important, that the prices must be affordable in order to ensure international competitiveness as well as maintaining the livelihood of those involved in the supply chain.

The Energy Mix Vision for 2030

Suginoo adds: "Another important theme is to overcome the challenges Japan’s energy supply-demand structure faces. On the major premise of safety, efforts will be made for energy security and economic efficiency of energy while promoting climate change countermeasures (S+3E). In the new plan, in the power sector, the country expects to lower themal power ratio on the major premise of its stable power suply, and move to new energy mix that includes more than doubling renewable energy supply (FY'19 - 18 per cent to FY'30 -36 to 38 per cent) as well as positioning hydrogen and ammonia (FY'19 - nil to FY'30 - 41 per cent) as fuel.

Hydrogen is key for carbon neutrality

Hydrogen is increasingly being viewed as an important tool for reducing carbon emissions, because the use of hydrogen for energy generates no direct carbon dioxide emissions.

Hiroki Yoshida, Deputy Director, Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Strategy Office, Advanced Energy Systems and Structure Division, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Department, METI, adds: "We are trying to make cleaner power generation and the renewable energy is also being expanded including solar power and wind, but renewable energy is intermittent and inconsistent. In this case, hydrogen can be stored as power storage and/or can be used for power generation. By using hydrogen, we believe that the potential of the RE can be leveraged to the maximum."

With regards to the contribution of hydrogen, it can be used for operating power plants and in other areas where it is difficult to decarbonise such as industry or modern commercial sectors which mainly depend on fossil fuels.

Currently in Japan, there are 167 hydrogen stations, including 12 under construction. Most of them are in Kanto region, followed by Chukyo, Kansai & Shikoku, Chugoku & Kyushu, Hokkaido & Tohoku and Hokuriko. Japan’s target is 320 stations by 2025, 1,000 stations by 2030.

"At the moment we are trying to expand the use of hydrogen in Japan but expanding the consumption means, supply has to be expanded as well," Hiroki adds.

The Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field (FH2R), a renewable energy-powered 10 MW-class hydrogen production unit, is currently the largest facility. Going forward if Japan enters a full-fledged hydrogen-based society then larger facilities of the same scale will be required, adds Hiroki.

Now, Japan's annual consumption of hydrogen is 2 million tonnes, and by 2030, by the virtue of supply and demand, the expected consumption will rise to 3 million tonnes. By 2050, the target is to be 20 million tonnes a year. On the road to 'Beyond Zero'

Naoto Okura, Deputy Director, International Affairs Division, Commissioner's Secretariat, Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, METI, said that Japan takes its energy policies very seriously.

In October 2020, Japan declared the goal of realizing a carbon-neutral, decarbonised society by 2050. To achieve this goal, Japan will lead decarbonization globally by establishing and implementing innovative technologies and mobilising all measures toward the "Beyond Zero" initiative, whose goal is not only global carbon neutrality, but also retroactive reduction of CO2 emissions through the stock base approach.

He added: "This year, from October 4 to 8, METI held the Tokyo Beyond Zero Week with eight conferences - online and hybrid - were concentrated into a week period to hold wide-ranging discussions on individual challenges toward the realisation of “Beyond Zero,” as well as pathways and methods to address these challenges within society. A total of about 17,000 people from about 90 countries participated."

Based on the declaration of carbon neutrality by 2050, three concepts were presented as the overall concept to communicate Japan's stance toward carbon neutrality. He detailed each concept as

”Various Pathways“ - To achieve carbon neutrality based on actual circumstances of each country and realistic and pragmatic energy transition, meaning that there is no 'one size that fits all'.

”Innovation“ - Need for innovation to achieve carbon neutrality which must be an elevated level of ambition. This means not only leveraging existing technologies but inventing innovative technologies must be added like hydrogen, fuel ammonia and CCUS. Innovation capabilities must be used in full scale.

”Engagement“ - For the entire world to go carbon neutral, just developed economies working on their own will not be sufficient. So, the concept is to have thorough engagement across all the countries of the world wherein the advanced economies might offer support and cooperation to the developing nations to be decarbonised.

Energy Transition via partnership

Shota Inagaki, Deputy Director, Petroleum and Natural Gas Division, Natural Resources and Fuel Department, Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, METI, spoke about the Asia Energy Transition Initiative (AETI) that Japan is leading by example.

He begins by saying that climate change is one of the most critical issues in the world and to achieve carbon neutrality it is essential for all nations to achieve this goal by the middle of this century. But it is not easy in Asian countries. "This is why Japan is supporting energy transitions in Asia in realistic and gradual manner because it is very essential in Asia. To support this, in May this year, Japan announced AETI that includes a variety of support for various and pragmatic energy transitions in the region."

The pillars

Support for formulating energy transition roadmaps

1. Presentation and promotion of the concept of Asia Transition Finance.

2. US$10 billion financial support for renewable energy, energy efficiency, LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas), CCUS and other projects

3. Technology development and deployment, utilising the achievement of Green Innovation fund that was established a year ago.

4. Human resource development, knowledge sharing and rulemaking on decarbonisation technologies.

As part of this initiative on Oct 4, Asia Green Growth Partnership Ministerial Meeting was convened wherein 20 countries participated at ministerial levels including the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The participants discussed the need to achieve green growth and accelerate various and realistic energy transitions toward global carbon neutrality in the earliest possible time. They affirmed that there is no single pathway to achieve carbon neutrality, but there are diverse pathways for each country, and that promoting innovation and actively engaging Asian countries will be important.

In July 2021, ADNOC announced that its is exploring the commercial potential of blue ammonia production in the UAE in partnership with Japan government agency and two private Japanese companies
In July 2021, ADNOC announced that its is exploring the commercial potential of blue ammonia production in the UAE in partnership with Japan government agency and two private Japanese companies

Japan and the UAE

At the Asia Green Growth Partnership meeting, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and Minister for Industry and Advanced Technology and the UAE's special envoy for climate change, welcomed Japan's initiative and shared their views to achieve green growth and studied energy transitions in Asia. They also realised the emphasis of various realistic and timely growth.

The UAE is aiming to expand bilateral economic and trade relations with Japan as it drives post-Covid economic growth and ADNOC is leveraging its status as a long-standing reliable and stable supplier of oil and gas to Japan to nurture new partnership opportunities between both countries. Japan is ADNOC’s largest international importer of oil and gas products with approximately 25 per cent of its crude oil imported from the UAE.

In July this year, ADNOC announced a joint study agreement (JSA) with two Japanese companies – INPEX Corporation (INPEX), JERA Co., Inc. (JERA), and a government agency, the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) – to explore the commercial potential of blue ammonia production in the UAE.

ADNOC is already embarking on a world-scale blue ammonia production facility at the TA’ZIZ Industrial Chemicals Zone in Ruwais which will have a capacity of 1,000 kilotons per annum, and further opportunities in blue ammonia will be explored under the new agreement.

In January, ADNOC and METI signed the MoC on ammonia fuel and carbon recycling and in April, and another was signed between METI and Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei about the cooperation in the field of hydrogen.

Why should you consider FCEVs over EVs?

Everyone wants to own a Tesla. The cost that comes with it is huge but so does your responsibility to the environment. EVs pose their own challenges and are still overlooked by a majority due to the cost factor and limited range of coverage in a single charge, topped by limited charging spaces.

However, vehicles that run on fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), expensive, are now gaining concentration in cities. Currently in use are 6,500 FCEVs across Japan. Considering the nature and characteristics of FCEVs, it can run for longer distances and the speed of charging is faster than EVs. So, there is a possibility of introducing these in transportation vehicles. Therefore, there is an emphasis on technological advancements for the purpose of using it for larger vehicles.

— rhonita@khaleejtimes.com

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