Japan’s Hokkaido Electric starts producing hydrogen

Japanese utility Hokkaido Electric Power has started producing hydrogen in the country’s northernmost Hokkaido prefecture, with plans to store excess renewable energy via water electrolysis.

The utility started up a 1MW facility in Tomakomai to produce hydrogen through water electrolysis on 18 May. The plant is estimated to produce 200 Nm³/h of hydrogen.

The facility will not use electricity sourced from renewable energy to produce hydrogen for around three years, Hokkaido said. But the process of producing hydrogen through water electrolysis can absorb excess renewable electricity and stabilise renewable output fluctuations, the utility added. Electrolysis can help balance the intermittency of renewable power generation by being able to store renewable electricity and send it to the grid when needed.

Hokkaido plans to use hydrogen for cooling generators and fuel-cell vehicles. The company has no plan yet for hydrogen co-firing in power generation, partly because the facility’s capacity is still small.

The prefectural government aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 48pc by the April 2030-March 2031 fiscal year based on 2013-14 levels, before realising net zero emissions by 2050, indicating that renewable power capacity in Hokkaido will continue to rise. The 48pc reduction in emissions is deeper than the country’s goal of a 46pc cut by 2030-31.

Renewable power developers could be further encouraged to expand grid networks and storage batteries to deal with the unstable, weather-dependent nature of renewable sources.

Japanese trading house Toyota Tsusho started up a 78km transmission line in the north of Hokkaido on 12 April, along with a lithium-iron storage battery that has a capacity of 240MW or 720MWh. The facility will be connected to a planned 540MW onshore wind power farm developed by three companies, including Toyota Tsusho.

Engr. Haseeb Ullah

Haseeb covers the global energy market for both conventional and modern energy resources. His expertise is on the global energy supply chain from generation to distribution and end-users. He has a Master degree in Engineering Management and a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering.
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