Recent Changes - Search:




edit SideBar




Energy Situation in Japan

Japan has shown a tremendous economic growth in the post-war period and is now one of the world’s leading industrial countries. The significant growth of Japan’s economy in the 1960s was based on cheap petroleum imports which, however, ceased with the first oil crisis showing the fragility of the country’s energy supply system. Since then alternative energy sources such as nuclear and natural gas as well as measures for energy conservation were rising. Since the end of the 1980s, energy demand began again to increase significantly in the commercial/residential and in the transportation sector [METI, 2003]. Japan as an island having no exchange of energy with neighboring countries depends heavily on imported energy (84% of the primary energy).

Japanese energy supply in 2001 was approx. 600 M TOE or 2.5*1013 MJ with shares of 49% oil, 13% gas, 13% nuclear, 3% hydro. A fraction of 60% of the energy consumption is non-electric. Energy self-sufficiency is only 4% and 20%, respectively, if nuclear is included (neglecting U imports). The largest share in total electricity production of about 950*109 kWh in 2002 was nuclear power with 31% from 52 units. Others are LNG (27%), oil (10%), hydro (9%), coal (22%), renewables (0.8%). The country’s dependence on coal has increased significantly, which needs to be balanced by improved efficiencies and new fossil fuel technologies. Because of shortage of land, Japan has a preference for large power units with a strong and diverse program.

The commitment made by Japan on the Kyoto conference is a reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 6% below the 1990 level. Targets are planned to be achieved through foresting (-3.9% of GHG target), emission trading (-1.6%), innovative technologies (-2.0%), and others (assuming a +2% from freon emission) [World Gas Conf 2003]. Reality, however, looks quite dramatic: instead of a reduction, there was an observed increase by 8% in 1995, and by 12% in 2002. This winds up to the requirement of an 18% GHG reduction by 2008/2012. Measures to help meet this goal are energy savings by the public, strengthened plans for renewables, energy-efficient vehicles and appliances, expanded use of natural gas, and last but not least the construction of 20 (more realistic: 10) new nuclear power plants.

Because of enhanced and actively promoted R&D programs and projects financially supported by the Government, Japan has become a strong player in the development of a hydrogen economy. It is besides the United States the leading country in fuel cell research with large investments by both the Government and the car industries. Since Japan’s transportation sector accounts for 20% of all CO2 emissions, fuels for “clean” FCV were chosen to be methanol and/or compressed H2 gas at present, gasoline reforming in near term, and hydrogen plus advanced storage options in the long term [Fukuda 2005]. Targets set by METI (see Table App-2-1): 50 thousand FCV plus 2.2 GW of stationary fuel cells by 2010, 5 million FCV plus 10 GW of stationary fuel cells by 2020, and tentative for the year 2030: 15 million FCV plus 12.5 GW stationary [Fukuda 2005]. The present H2 consumption in Japan is about 162 million Nm3 per year, mainly produced via steam reforming of natural gas. The demand of H2 for the future was assessed by METI’s Agency for Natural Resources & Energy (ANRE) to rise from 7.3*109 Nm3 in 2010 to 54.4*109 Nm3 in 2030 [Nucleonics Week 2005] with by far the largest share dedicated to stationary fuel cells. But it will be only after 2020 that the use of H2 will show its CO2-reducing effect. The number of H2 refueling stations in 2020 has been assessed to be 2300, in an alternative scenario (only pure H2 vehicles) 3300, with production capacities of 100-500 Nm3/h.

Table App-2-1: Assessment on fuel cell introduction and hydrogen demand

2010 2020 2030
FCV 50,000 5,000,000 15,000,000
Stationary FC [M kW] 2.2 10 12.5
H2 demand [109 Nm3/yr] 7.3 39.1 49.6

Hydrogen Projects in Japan

Sunshine, Moonlight, New Sunshine

In 1974, short after the first energy crisis, the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in MITI (since 2001: METI, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) of the Japanese government has initiated the Sunshine Project to develop new energy technologies and to reduce environmental pollution. It was followed in 1978 by the Moonlight Project to focus on energy saving and energy conversion technologies and in 1979 by the project on Environmental Technology. All projects energy R&D in close cooperation between industry, government, and academia. Due to the strong interrelations between new energies, energy conversion, and environmental technology, the New Sunshine Project was started in 1993 merging all previous projects to contribute to an international system based on environmentally friendly energy technologies with the goals of (i) innovative technology development, (ii) international large-scale collaborative research, (iii) R&D on appropriate technologies to assist neighboring developing countries. The New Sunshine Project managed by AIST has become the largest non-nuclear R&D program supported by the Japanese Government. In 1997, the "Law Concerning Promotion of the Use of New Energy" went into force, providing subsidies in the area of new-energy electric power generation with the main goal to cover 3.1% of the domestic energy supply by new energy sources by the year 2010, thus lowering the dependency on fossil fuels.

WE-NET Project

One of the worldwide most ambitious hydrogen energy research projects pursued in Japan was the "International Clean Energy Network Using Hydrogen Conversion", short World Energy Network or WE-NET, operating under the wider frame of the New Sunshine Project. Its main objective was the establishment of a large-scale energy system based on hydrogen from renewable energy sources. The project was directed by NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization), which is an implementing agency of the Japanese government to promote the development of technologies related to new energy sources. Starting in 1993, WE-NET was scheduled to run over 28 years in three distinct phases. Phase I (1993-98) was dealing with the survey on key technologies and elemental research and system studies under various subtasks. Phase II (1999-2005) was dedicated to the development of prototype systems in the order of 50 MW, until eventually in the final phase III, the hydrogen technologies were to be demonstrated in sub and full systems [Murase 1995]. Main hydrogen production method was considered to be solid polymer electrolyte water electrolysis. Long-distance maritime transportation of the H2 was foreseen to take place in the liquid form LH2, alternatively liquid hydrides like methanol or ammonia. On the demand side, the H2 was to be used as a fuel in the transportation sector, in fuel cell power plants, in combustion turbines, in households, and as chemical feedstock. Originally based on renewable energies, the later Phase II considered also fossil fuels to allow the introduction of H2 on a short term.

While in Phase I, both the conceptual design of the total system and the energy balance and the electricity cost were verified, Phase II was used to continue the development of fundamental technologies and, in particular, to prepare distributed energy technologies. With respect to the latter utilization of H2, studies were conducted on stand-alone refueling stations (steam reforming or electrolysis), metal hydride vehicle tank systems, low-temperature fuel cells, and also LH2 (magnetic) liquefaction [Hijikata 2002]. The WE-NET project, originally planned as a long-term program, was eventually discontinued at the end FY 2002, and replaced by a more specific hydrogen and fuel cell program to promote commercialization of fuel cells in mobile and stationary applications.

Investigation and research in the field of safety within the WE-NET project was the establishment of a comprehensive "System Safety Design" including a concept of safety measures for prevention of accidental LH2 release or the mitigation of accident consequences. These activities included the risk analyses of hydrogen subsystems, a collection of data on accidents with handling hydrogen, and the review and systematization of existing safety standards. The computer code CHAMPAGNE, a multi-phase, multi-component thermodynamics model originally used in the nuclear field, was modified to also treat the atmospheric dispersion of hydrogen gas clouds, and was successfully applied to the NASA LH2 spill experiments of 1980 [Chitose 1996].

Experimental work on H2 safety began in the early 1980s, when tests with ignition of LH2 in a 0.3 m diameter open dewar were conducted to investigate LH2 flame behavior in comparison to gasoline flames. Burning rates expressed as liquid level regression were measured to be 0.4 mm/s, which was six times larger than for gasoline. Abnormal burning with very high flames was observed, when the burning LH2 came into contact with solidified oxygen from the air [Urano 1986]. Tests with burning LH2 were also used to examine different methods of extinguishing pool fires. In 1993, lab-scale spill experiments with LH2 and LOX were conducted to examine the cryogen behavior on solid grounds like concrete and dry/wet sand and heat transport phenomena influenced by the moisture in the ground [Takeno 1994]. A new series of LH2 spills, still on lab-scale, was made in 2000 investigating the pool spreading and vaporization behavior in a 0.7 x 2.5 m2 open basin. Phenomena such as the transition from film to nucleate boiling and the heat transfer from the ground were examined in detail to be applied to the above mentioned CHAMPAGNE code [Chitose 2002].

Japan Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Demonstration Project

The new "Japan Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Demonstration Project" (JHFC) has been designed to consist of three phases [Kuriyama, 2004]:

  1. In a first R&D stage until 2005, demonstration projects of H2 infrastructure, also a discussion of international and a review of domestic codes and regulations;
  2. In the Phase 2005-2010, a gradual establishment of the fuel supply system and promotion of FCV and buses;
  3. And finally after 2010, a diffusion of H2 technologies leading to a self-sustained growth and the promotion of FC system in the private sector.

Starting with the so-called "Koizumi Initiative", a visit of Japan’s Prime Minister at an FCV exhibition, first visible success of the JHFC demonstration program was the delivery of the first generation of commercially released H2-fueled FCV by Toyota and Honda in December 2002 in both Japan and California. As of January 2005, a total of 47 FCV was in test operation [Iwai 2005]. According to a press release from June 2005, Toyota’s new fuel cell hybrid passenger vehicle has become the first in Japan to acquire vehicle type certification under the amended Road Vehicle Act from the Japanese Government. The Government also issued the world’s first FCV safety and environmental standards in force since April 2005 [Fuel Cell Today 2005]. Demonstration of stationary fuel cells is being done on 33 sites (as of 2005) all over Japan using PEFC from 11 manufacturers and applying different fuels under various conditions [Iwai 2005]. As part of the infrastructure, 10 hydrogen refueling stations were constructed in the Tokyo-Kanagawa area based on different H2 sources with the aim to compare the various options and investigate their well-to-wheel efficiencies.

A study to investigate the risk associated with a refueling station based on high pressure gaseous hydrogen and to examine accident scenarios and respective safety requirements has been initiated by the Japan Petroleum Energy Center. As a major result, the analysis has shown that, except for highly unlikely events, a minimum safety distance of 6 m should be sufficient. It is intended to propose a respective revision of the existing "High Pressure Gas Safety Law" which presently requires a clearance distance of 11.3 m [Komori 2005].

To investigate the safety of FCV and then be able to establish a respective set of codes and standards, the "Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Vehicle Safety Evaluation Facility", Hy-SEF was constructed. It includes a fire and explosion resistant, contained area for testing H2 vessels and complete FCV under accidental conditions [Kuriyama 2004]. The investigation of the flammable region of a H2 vapor cloud released from a pressure vessel was done in a wind tunnel test series in 2001. If stored at 35 MPa and applying a 0.8 mm dia. pinhole, concentrations of > 4% were observed up to a distance of 2-3 m. If large amounts of H2 were released within a short period of time, the flammable cloud sections were extended to about 20 m [WE-NET 2003]. Also explosion test series have been conducted with premixed H2-air at different concentrations in 5, 37, or 300 m3 volumes. Measurements were made for the flame speeds and overpressures at various distances studying the influences of ignition mode, obstruction, and a barrier wall [IAE 2005].

Stationary Fuel Cell Demonstration Project

Not only fuel cells for mobile, but also for stationary applications are being investigated. Various demonstration projects have been starting particularly as part of complete energy systems based on renewable primary energy. Within the Millenium project coordinated by the Japan Gas Association, companies are moving to the large-scale production of 1 kW power units for households. Unlike the USA or Europe, Japan is basically looking at PEM technology [Geiger 2003, Kuriyama 2004].

Nuclear Hydrogen Production

The "Basic Plan for Energy Supply and Demand" of October 2003 as part of the "Basic Law on Energy Policy Making" explicitly states that hydrogen is a clean energy carrier and that a commercialization of hydrogen production systems by means of nuclear, solar, and biomass, but no fossils, is desired. With the construction and operation of the 30 MW(th) High Temperature Engineering Test Reactor, HTTR, (first criticality in 1999), the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI) has laid the basis for utilization of nuclear process heat for hydrogen production. The reactor allows a coolant outlet temperature of 950°C outside the reactor vessel to provide process heat at 905°C through the intermediate heat exchanger, which was demonstrated in 2004 for the first time in the world. Over several years, steam reforming of methane (SMR) was considered top candidate method to be connected to the HTTR. The SMR process was successfully demonstrated in an out-of-pile facility under nuclear conditions. Potential hazards associated with the combination of nuclear and chemical facilities are mainly given by the presence of flammable gases (feedstock methane, product gases H2 and CO) in the vicinity of the reactor vessel, the potential migration of radioactive tritium into the product gas, and the possible impact of abnormal operation of one system on the other one, and have been comprehensively investigated in theoretical and experimental studies [Verfondern 2004].

Furthermore JAERI has done extensive R&D on the thermochemical cycles based on the UT-3 and Iodine-Sulfur (I-S) processes for H2 production. It is most advanced in the study of the I-S cycle with a successful operation of a lab-scale facility having achieved a hydrogen production rate of 30 Nl/h in a continuous closed-cycle operation over one week. This process is now considered the prime candidate for the demonstration of nuclear H2 generation. The next step starting in 2005 is the design and construction of a pilot plant with a production rate of 30 Nm3/h of H2 under the simulated conditions of a nuclear reactor [Kubo 2004]. Backup H2 production method is the high temperature electrolysis, which was also investigated, but has not gone yet beyond lab-scale testing [Hino 2004].

Sources and references:

Chitose K., Ogawa O., Morii T., Analysis of a Large Scale Liquid Hydrogen Spill Experiment Using the Multi-Phase Hydrodynamics Analysis Code (CHAMPAGNE). 11th World Hydrogen Energy Conf., Stuttgart, Germany (1996).

Chitose K.,, Activities on Hydrogen Safety for the WE-NET Project – Experiment and Simulation of the Hydrogen Dispersion. 14th World Hydrogen Energy Conf., Montreal, Canada (2002).

Fuel Cell Today, June (2005).

Fukuda K., Kobayashi O., Ogata K., A Hydrogen Introduction Scenario in Japan. Presentation by T. Sawada at the INES-THEN, Nov. 5-6, 2004, Tokyo, Japan (2005).

Geiger S., Cropper M., Fuel Cell Market Survey: Small Stationary Applications. Fuel Cell Today 30 July 2003.

Hijikata T., Research and Development of International Clean Energy Network Using Hydrogen Energy (WE-NET). Int. J. Hydrogen Energy 27 (2002) 115-129.

Hino R., Haga K., Aita H., Sekita K., R&D on Hydrogen Production by High-Temperature Electrolysis of Steam. Nuc. Eng. Des. 233 (2004) 363-375.

IAE, SRI International, MHI, Experiments on Hydrogen Deflagration, Institute of Applied Energy, Japan, Presentation at FZK (2005).

Iwai Y., Japan’s Approach to Commercialization of Fuel Cell / Hydrogen Technology. Presentation at the IPHE Steering Committee, January 2005.

Kubo S., A Pilot Test Plant of the Thermochemical Water-Splitting Iodine-Sulfur Process. Nuc. Eng. Des. 233 (2004) 355-362.

Kuriyama N., Millennium Project. Presentation at the Int. Workshop on Fuel Cell Testing and Review of Codes & Standards Activities, October 22, 2004.

METI, Energy in Japan, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (2003). Available under: Murase M., R&D Plans for WE-NET (World Energy Network), Hydrogen and Clean Energy, Int. Symp., Tokyo, 1995, NEDO (1995) 55-64.

Nucleonics Week, JAERI wants to produce hydrogen in HTTR in 2010 – if money is there, January 20 (2005).

Takeno K., Ichinose T., Hyodo Y., Nakamura H., Evaporation Rates of Liquid Hydrogen and Liquid Oxygen Spilled onto the Ground. J. Loss Prev. Process Ind. 7 (1994) 425-431.

Urano Y.,, Hazards of Burning Liquefied Hydrogen. National Chemical Laboratory for Industry 81 (1986) 143-157 (in Japanese).

Verfondern K., Nishihara T., Valuation of the Safety Concept of the Combined Nuclear/Chemical Complex for Hydrogen Production with HTTR, Report Juel-4135, Research Center Juelich (2004). WE-NET, Summary Report on FY 2002 (2003).

World Gas Conference (22nd), Tokyo, Japan, June 1-5, 2003.

<< | Content | >>

Edit - History - Print - Recent Changes - Search
Page last modified on April 30, 2008, at 03:45 PM