On the Ground in Japan

Two talks delivered in December show the tiny steps that allow a country to transition to a sustainable energy economy.  The country is Japan.  The events hosting the talks were short-format symposia whose evident objective was to draw in business and technical people who might become practically involved in the new energy economy.  Both talks highlighted the role to be played by ammonia while also describing competing and complementary technologies.

The first talk took place on December 1, at a five-hour Energy Technology Symposium sponsored by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST).  Norihiko Iki of Fukushima Renewable Energy Institute (FREA) spoke about “Ammonia as a Hydrogen Carrier and Its Direct Combustion Technology”.  Iki’s talk substantially followed the content of his presentation at the 2016 NH3 Fuel Conference, “Power Generation and Flame Visualization of Micro Gas Turbine Ammonia or Ammonia-Methane Mixture.”  Both presentations described FREA’s 50 kW combustion turbine, including its “curved tube” device for visual flame observation; both described the mix of fuels (kerosene ammonia and methane) used in the experimentation; and both ended with discussion of plans to improve the technology.

Iki’s talk was followed by a presentation entitled “Introduction of Liquid Hydrogen Experimental Equipment and Device Development for Liquid Hydrogen.”  The two were the only ones out of the ten talks on the program to focus primarily on the energy carrier aspect of the hydrogen energy economy.   Most of the others had other hydrogen-related themes. For example, the talk that preceded Iki’s was entitled “Hydrogen-Related Technology Development Utilizing Renewable Energy.”  A poster session embraced a wider-ranging set of topics, including energy storage using formic acid, electricity storage using mesoporous carbon, and exhaust gas recirculation technology in diesel engines.

On December 8, Naruki Endo, a Technology Researcher from FREA, delivered a presentation at a Seminar on Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Market Entry that was jointly sponsored by Kanagawa Prefecture and the Kanto Bureau of Economy, Trade, and Industry.  Kanagawa Prefecture is part of the Tokyo metropolitan area and includes within its boundaries the city of Yokohama.  Endo’s talk was entitled “Research and Development of an Energy-Saving System for the Realization of the Hydrogen Society.”  A brochure for the event stated that he would “describe research and development using methylcyclohexane and ammonia as hydrogen energy carriers.”  The brochure also stated that Endo would introduce a “support program” for technology transfer from FREA to small and medium-size enterprises, and economic development for areas that were affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Endo’s talk was the centerpiece of the two-hour event.  Endo was preceded on the agenda by an overview of “national efforts toward realization of the hydrogen society”.  He was followed by a representative of Sanno Co., Ltd., a small company with expertise in thin film precious metal deposition that serves as a case example for how to “enter into the hydrogen society”.  The Seminar concluded with individual consultations with a Prefectural development advisor with a view toward “matching businesses with the needs of major manufacturers.”

In a small way, this outreach to broader society makes clear that for Japan, the energy transition is not a theoretical construct or something to fall back on when the oil runs out.  It truly is happening, in present time, as we watch.

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