Japanese companies plan hydrogen supply chain project

TOKYO (Reuters) - A consortium of Japanese companies plans to launch what it says is world’s first hydrogen supply chain demonstration project, part of the country’s goal of becoming a “hydrogen society”.

The relatively small-scale project aims to import the super-clean energy source from 2020, the consortium companies said in a statement on Thursday.

Japan is betting heavily on hydrogen as an energy source despite the high costs and technical difficulties which have generally slowed its adoption as a carbon-free fuel.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing his vision of vehicles, houses and power stations using hydrogen to end Japan’s energy crisis since the 2011 Fukushima disaster, which led to a dramatic drop in electricity production from its nuclear plants.

Chiyoda Corp, Mitsubishi Corp, Mitsui & Co and Nippon Yusen KK said they would take part in the project to build a plant to generate liquid hydrogen in Brunei and a plant in Kawasaki, near Tokyo, to process cargoes back into gas.

Up to 210 tonnes of hydrogen will be imported to Japan in liquid form in 2020, they said. Hydrogen gas extracted from the liquid will be used as feedstock at a gas-fired power plant operated by a unit of oil refiner Showa Shell Sekiyu KK.

The project is expected to cost several billion yen, or tens of millions of dollars. Two thirds of the cost will be subsidized by the Japanese government, a consortium official said.

Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Joseph Radford