When Tokyo hosts the Olympic Games in three years’ time, it plans to run the extravaganza using a shiny new fleet of vehicles that run on cleaner-burning hydrogen fuel.
Shinzo Abe’s government wants Japan to evolve into a hydrogen society, with some 40,000 hydrogen-powered cars by 2020 and 800,000 by 2030. The country’s carmakers see the Olympics as the perfect opportunity to present this new technology to a global audience.
Toyota and Honda are both developing hydrogen-fuelled cars for 2020. Japan is investing some US$100 million to convert Tokyo city taxis and to run the entire Olympic vehicle fleet using hydrogen.
Japanese interests are planning to build and manage a production plant in Victoria, Australia to liquefy the gas, then ship it to Japan-based customers.
Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI), the Japanese conglomerate whose roots lie in shipbuilding, is a front-runner in hydrogen technology. KHI plans to provide the elements that make up the hydrogen supply chain.
Shipping liquid hydrogen will require a new type of gas carrier to carry this volatile cargo safely and efficiently. And so KHI is also leading the drive to design and build the world’s first hydrogen carriers.
LNG World Shipping asked KHI Ship & Offshore Structure's naval architect and senior manager Shohei Inatsu for a progress report.
What has driven KHI to study designs for liquid hydrogen carriers?
We must find ways to source carbon dioxide-free hydrogen, inexpensively and reliably to integrate hydrogen energy into society. In June 2014, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) released its Strategic Road Map for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells, which called for a carbon dioxide-free hydrogen supply chain to be established.
And so, KHI decided to collaborate with project partners to develop a demonstration project. In June 2015, the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO) accepted our demonstration project for establishing a supply chain for mass marine transportation of hydrogen and gasification of brown coal.
NEDO supports the technology and social demonstration. A second body, the technical research association HySTRA, will be the operating body responsible for the production, handling and transport of hydrogen.
We then developed our design for a liquefied-hydrogen carrier to demonstrate the technologies for the mass maritime transportation of the liquefied gas.
Who are your project partners?
In February last year, KHI joined forces with Iwatani, Electric Power Development (J-Power) and Shell Japan to form the CO2-free Hydrogen Energy Supply-Chain Technology Research Association (HySTRA).
HySTRA aims to create a commercial liquefied hydrogen supply chain from overseas, see figure one. The project has two parts. One is creating technology for gasification of brown coal, the other covers technology for long-range mass transport and handling of liquefied hydrogen.
J-Power is developing an integrated coal gasification combined-cycle system. It will use the gasification technology it has accumulated to demonstrate technology for gasifying brown coal.
KHI, Iwatani and Shell Japan are working together to demonstrate technology for long-range mass transportation and cargo handling of liquefied hydrogen. Iwatani is Japan’s only producer and supplier of liquefied hydrogen.
KHI supplies cryogenic equipment and has built LNG storage tanks and receiving terminals and equipment for the rocket launch complex in Tanegashima in Japan. Shell Japan is a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, which has experience with LNG supply chains and carrier operation.
The four companies will bring their strengths to HySTRA to advance research, development and demonstration.
What milestones has the project reached so far?
We have finished basic designs for the pilot project’s ship and start work this year on more detailed design and construction.
Who will produce the hydrogen, where and for whom – are the ships designed for deepsea or for coastal trades?
The commercial hydrogen supply chain being considered is based on hydrogen produced in Australia. The hydrogen will be transported by sea to power-generation companies and others in Japan.
There is a large quantity of brown coal in Australia. Most is unused because it can ignite spontaneously once dried, making it difficult to transport. However, brown coal can produce inexpensive hydrogen and our estimates indicate a very competitive price against rival carbon dioxide-free sources of energy,such as wind and solar power.
The ship we are developing in our pilot project is an oceangoing vessel, designed to sail between Japan and Australia.
What challenges does transporting liquid hydrogen present, from the point of view of safety and efficiency?
We are co-operating with the governments of Japan and Australia, which are examining safety standards for marine transportation of liquid hydrogen. In November, the IMO adopted as a provisional safety standard the result of that review.
In January, Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) agreed to apply this safety standard to the construction of the ship for the pilot project.
In developing the world’s first liquid hydrogen carrier, we conducted the risk assessment with Class NK and project partners to secure high levels of safety.
What demand do you see for shipping hydrogen – how many vessels would such demand require, for Japan and for other countries?
We are certain that the use of hydrogen will spread, not only in Japan but all over the world, to meet growing demand for carbon dioxide-free energy. We believe there is demand for specialist ships for the widescale transport of hydrogen.
Our estimates suggest that if 20 per cent of Japan's total electricity generation shifted to producing power from hydrogen in 2050, it would need around 80 large hydrogen (LH2) carriers. In addition to these carriers, we also expect demand to grow for vessels that use hydrogen as fuel – and for hydrogen bunker-supply vessels to deliver the fuel.
How soon will the first liquid hydrogen carrier be built; for which owner?
The pilot project ship will be delivered to HySTRA for demonstration tests in 2020.
What containment systems have you developed to carry liquid hydrogen?
The cargo containment system is designed in accordance with the IGC Code’s Type C concept. It can accumulate boil-off gas for up to 21 days at sea. As the temperature of liquefied hydrogen is even lower – minus 253°C – than that of LNG and it is easier to vaporise, we adopted vacuum insulation to minimise heat transfer into the cargo.
What is the ship design spec and its key features – to what range can the design be scaled up or down?
The carrier is about 116m long and can accommodate two cargo containment systems of 1,250m³. Hydrogen is not to be used for propulsion. The main propulsion system features electric motors. These receive power from generators driven by diesel engines.
We will study large-scale carriers, aiming to develop a large carrier of 160,000m³. However, we will need to develop additional technology based on the results of this project.
Any other developments?
KHI is working across the hydrogen supply chain. We are also developing ways to produce liquefied hydrogen from hydrogen gas, loading-arm systems and hydrogen gas turbines for power generation. We have already developed compressed gaseous hydrogen trailers and liquid hydrogen containers for transport on land.
Shohei Inatsu is senior manager and naval architect in the initial design department, engineering division, in KHI’s Ship and Offshore Structure company