Some of the biggest industrial companies in Japan are working on a project that could trigger a wave of investment into one of the most controversial forms of carbon capture: methanation.
Shipping giant Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd. (MOL) is leading a working group of nine Japanese companies including steelmakers Nippon Steel Corp. and JFE Steel Corp. to assess the viability of producing and using methane to power zero-emission ships instead of liquefied natural gas or other fossil fuels, including a fleet of new vessels that would transport carbon dioxide for processing.
Methanation is the most realistic solution for MOL to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, Takeshi Hashimoto, chief executive officer said in an interview. The challenge for the next one to two decades is whether the company could turn the technology into a sustainable and practical solution by reducing the cost, he said.
Discovered over a century ago by French chemists, methanation is a two-part process to convert carbon dioxide and hydrogen into methane. The hydrogen can be produced by splitting water using renewable energy such as wind or solar power. The hydrogen is combined with carbon dioxide and the resulting methane can be used as a fuel in ships or power plants.
Yet the costs of producing and transporting the gases and the technical hurdles have so far kept the process largely at an experimental level. That may change as demand for carbon-neutral energy increases.
One of methanes advantages over alternative fuels such as ammonia and hydrogen is that it can more easily use existing natural gas infrastructure, said Hashimoto. Another is that it can effectively store excess energy created by solar and wind power as methane. When the gas is burned to produce power, the carbon dioxide captured earlier is released back into the atmosphere, making it carbon neutral.
For shipping, the task of finding an emission-neutral fuel is critical because onboard solar and wind systems dont generate enough energy to propel large vessels. In 2018, the International Maritime Organization set a target to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in shipping 50% by 2050 and eliminate them completely as soon as possible this century. Japans land ministry wants zero-emission ships to be operating by 2028.
The working group aims to get the project in shape in seven to eight years to meet the land ministrys goal, said Hirohiko Oyabu, an assistant to the director of the technical division at MOL.
The MOL-led group is conducting a life-cycle assessment of methanation and is working to remove difficulties step by step to make the technology feasible, Oyabu said. It expects to produce a report on initial progress this summer.
Because renewable energy is expensive in Japan, the methane may need to be made overseas. That would mean developing special vessels to transport the carbon dioxide. Key to commercialization would be the viability of shipping carbon dioxide long distances as well as the price of the hydrogen.
Balanced against those expenses is the rising cost of failing to curb emissions as regulations tighten. That may propel the technology to the next stage, including commercialization, Oyabu said. Fuels with less carbon dioxide emission will be valued more in the future.
A competitor to methane is LNG, which emits 20-30% less carbon dioxide than vessels using oil allowing shipowners to cut emissions with proven technology. Of the 804 vessels MOL operated as of December, 96 were fueled by LNG.
The number of LNG-fueled ships, including those on order, is expected to double worldwide by 2027 from 2019, the company said. That could make LNG an interim choice until a true emission-neutral solution emerges.
A zero-emission fleet is only commercially viable if zero-emission energy sources are competitive with traditional fuels, said Johannah Christensen, managing director of the Global Maritime Forum.
There were around 38 active methanation projects around the world as of 2019, mostly in Europe and the U.S., according to research at the Technical University of Applied Science in Regensburg, Germany. Three pilot plants were set up in Germany, Italy and Switzerland after four-years of research into the technology under the EUs Horizon 2020 research effort.
Automaker Audi AG has been experimenting with methane-powered vehicles for almost a decade and sells versions of its A4 Avant and A5 Sportback that run on the fuel, made using wind power at a plant in Werlte in North Germany.
In Japan, interest in methanation increased after the government established a $19.2 billion green innovation fund last year, looking at technologies spanning everything from carbon recycling to ship propulsion as part of its 2050 zero-emissions goal.
Oil and gas company Inpex Corp. and industrial conglomerate Hitachi Zosen Corp. have built a pilot facility at Inpexs Koshijihara gas production plant in Niigata Prefecture. Commissioned by state-run New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, the four-year-old project makes about 47 tons of methane a year, and Inpex plans to ramp it up to commercial operation of about 350,000 tons after 2030.
Compared to ammonia or liquid hydrogen, methanation could be implemented with considerably lower capital investment, as we can use many existing facilities, said Tatsuki Wakayama, a principal project engineer at Inpexs renewable energy and new business division.
Utility Osaka Gas Co. is working on a way to produce methane by electrolyzing water vapor and carbon dioxide simultaneously using a Solid Oxide Electrolysis Cell. The company claims the system is more efficient and announced a successful prototype in January.
Critics argue that even with advances in technology, methanation will struggle to compete with LNG. Imported LNG costs around $8 per MMBtu in Japan, a price methane would struggle to beat even if solar costs were free, said Syed Naqvi, executive director at IHS Markit. Methanation could be economical if hydrogen is obtained as a byproduct from somewhere, he said.
Inpex says renewable energy would ideally be around 2-3/kWh (2-3 cents) or less for commercialization, compared with a current price of about 13.6/kWh in Japan. In Saudi Arabia and Chile, solar power costs as little as 2-2.5/kWh.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.
PHOTO GALLERY (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
- Technology company - Wikipedia - June 20th, 2021
- PROJECT 38: How to survive today's tech stressors - Washington Technology - June 20th, 2021
- The first-ever Black-owned social job network built on blockchain technology launches Juneteenth - Johnson City Press (subscription) - June 20th, 2021
- Komatsu: celebrating 100 years of industrial innovation | Technology - Mining Global - Mining News, Magazine and Website - June 20th, 2021
- Energy Department Seeks to Keep Grant-Backed Technology Jobs in U.S. - The Wall Street Journal - June 20th, 2021
- AI and the future of global trade | Technology & AI - FinTech Magazine - The FinTech & InsurTech Platform - June 20th, 2021
- Investors in technology need to pay attention to corporate governance - The Economist - June 20th, 2021
- Swiss Scientist Refined Technology Used in MRI Scans - The Wall Street Journal - June 20th, 2021
- Talking Technology: Ferrie Says This Investment Can Yield Up to $100/Acre Profits - Agweb Powered by Farm Journal - June 20th, 2021
- Mississippi INBRE Research Efforts Aided by Technology Upgrade - Southern Miss Now - June 20th, 2021
- How One Company Is Leveraging Technology To Support And Educate Autistic Children - Forbes - June 20th, 2021
- Meet the World Economic Forum's Technology Pioneers of 2021 - World Economic Forum - June 20th, 2021
- Research says AI technology to divert invasive species in Illinois river akin to 'crime scene photos' - The Center Square - June 20th, 2021
- Bridging the gap: Technology can help conserve biodiversity - The Economist - June 20th, 2021
- Diving into the global problem of technology waste - MIT News - June 20th, 2021
- Calculating The Fair Value Of New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc. (NYSE:EDU) - Yahoo Finance - June 20th, 2021
- Ministers eye technology to save thousands of NHS staffing hours - Yahoo Finance UK - June 20th, 2021
- U.S., EU Forge Closer Ties on Emerging Technologies to Counter Russia and China - The Wall Street Journal - June 20th, 2021
- Newater Technology, Inc. Announces the Discharge of Injunction Against its Going Private Transaction - PRNewswire - June 20th, 2021
- The UAPs (UFOs) Are Not Caused by Any U.S. Advanced Technology - Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence - June 20th, 2021
- All kinds of new technology are being used to monitor the natural world - The Economist - June 20th, 2021
- WIPO is seeking a Head, Legislative, Policy and Technology Advice Section - IPWatchdog.com - June 20th, 2021
- This Is The Future Of EV Technology...Maybe - InsideEVs - June 20th, 2021
- Rule of land supreme, not your policy: Parliamentary panel on information technology to Twitter - Economic Times - June 20th, 2021
- Coding languages to learn and avoid for technology jobs in banks - eFinancialCareers - June 20th, 2021
- Green Energy: The Issue Is Politics, Not Technology or Cost - Bloomberg - June 20th, 2021
- Global High Purity Alumina Market (2020 to 2026) - Featuring Airy Technology, Nippon Light Metal and Polar Sapphire Among Others -... - June 20th, 2021
- Novel Vaccine Based on mRNA Technology Shows Protection Against Malaria in Animal Models | The Weather Channel - Articles from The Weather Channel |... - June 20th, 2021
- Widespread electrification requires us to rethink battery technology - TechCrunch - June 13th, 2021
- Innovative Battery Technology Puts Flying Cars on the Horizon - SciTechDaily - June 13th, 2021
- Intel debates buyout of SiFive to bolster chip technology against Arm -source - Reuters - June 13th, 2021
- Erbil to host 2nd annual international fair on information technology - Kurdistan24 - June 13th, 2021
- The coming productivity boom - MIT Technology Review - June 13th, 2021
- Sit back and enjoy the technology ride - Mankato Free Press - June 13th, 2021
- King County Councils ban of facial recognition technology is misguided - MyNorthwest.com - June 13th, 2021
- Recon Updates Progress on its Technology-Driven Solutions for Electric Submersible Progressing Cavity Pump with $5 Million Orders Secured - PRNewswire - June 13th, 2021
- Jetti Resources' technology could help unlock millions of tonnes of copper from tailings - The Northern Miner - June 13th, 2021
- We can take the lead in offshore wind-energy technology - theday.com - June 13th, 2021
- Senate passes bill to boost US science and tech innovation to compete with China - USA TODAY - June 13th, 2021
- Technology Fills the Gap as Jobs Lag GDP - The Wall Street Journal - June 13th, 2021
- Salesforce CEO: We're going to rebuild all of our technology to become Slack-first - Yahoo Finance - June 13th, 2021
- TikTok changed the shape of some peoples faces without asking - MIT Technology Review - June 13th, 2021
- NFTs: A token of trust in the digital world | Technology & AI - FinTech Magazine - The FinTech & InsurTech Platform - June 13th, 2021
- NextNav, with its warehouse-ready positioning technology, going public via SPAC - FreightWaves - June 13th, 2021
- What is a flying car? - The Indian Express - June 13th, 2021
- Moon, Macron discuss bilateral cooperation in cutting-edge technology industries - The Korea Herald - June 13th, 2021
- This Top Computer and Technology Stock is a #1 (Strong Buy): Why It Should Be on Your Radar - Yahoo Finance - June 13th, 2021
- This DST-backed wastewater treatment technology to reduce costs for low, medium scale enterprises - The Financial Express - June 13th, 2021
- VPN is still the most important tool in your technological arsenal - TechRadar - June 13th, 2021
- DXC Technology Welcomes Brenda Tsai as Chief Marketing and Communications Officer - Business Wire - June 13th, 2021
- Proceed to your nearest (virtual) exit: gaming technology is teaching us how people respond to emergencies - The Conversation AU - June 13th, 2021
- UK and US agree to strengthen ties in science and technology - GOV.UK - June 13th, 2021
- The Frangible Technology Fund Expands Across the United States - United States Eventing Association - June 13th, 2021
- BIS Working Paper Examines Architecture and Rationale of CBDC Technology | ABA Banking Journal - ABA Banking Journal - June 13th, 2021
- Should You Be Adding Amkor Technology (NASDAQ:AMKR) To Your Watchlist Today? - Simply Wall St - June 13th, 2021
- Worldwide Rubber Gloves Industry to 2026 - by Manufacturers, Regions, Technology and Product Type - ResearchAndMarkets.com - Business Wire - June 13th, 2021
- Survivor Credits Cutting Edge Technology For Best Chance In Fight Against Aggressive Breast Cancer - news9.com KWTV - June 13th, 2021
- 2022 Audi A3 and S3 return with improved engines and technology - The Car Connection - June 13th, 2021
- Is Society Moving In The Right Direction With Technology Rapidly Taking Over The World? - Forbes - June 2nd, 2021
- Top Technology Trends Redefining the Future of the Fintech Industry - Analytics Insight - June 2nd, 2021
- King County Council votes to ban use of facial recognition technology - KING5.com - June 2nd, 2021
- Why banks differ in the pace of adoption of new technology | VOX, CEPR Policy Portal - voxeu.org - June 2nd, 2021
- 1 Trillion Gallons of Water Being Recycled Using Xylem Technology - Business Wire - June 2nd, 2021
- What Is the Space Force's Technology Vision? - FedTech Magazine - June 2nd, 2021
- Staying safe with technology | News | thenewsguard.com - The News Guard - June 2nd, 2021
- New technology put in place to stop wrong-way drivers is showing results - WCPO - June 2nd, 2021
- UK Partners With NASA to Help Launch $15 Million Space Technology Research Institute - UKNow - June 2nd, 2021
- MOLECULAR YOU SIGNS AGREEMENT FOR ROCHE TO USE ITS MOLECULAR PROFILING TECHNOLOGY - BioSpace - June 2nd, 2021
- Japanese companies to develop chipmaking technology with TSMC -Nikkei - Reuters - June 2nd, 2021
- Microsoft: This open-source technology points the way to the collaborative future of work - TechRepublic - June 2nd, 2021
- Using Technology to Increase Investor Confidence - The Real Deal - June 2nd, 2021
- Adlumin Appoints New Director of Innovation and Technology - Business Wire - June 2nd, 2021
- NBA Launchpad initiative seeks to improve basketball through emerging technologies - USA TODAY - June 2nd, 2021
- Cristiano Ronaldo Signs Recovery Technology Deal With Therabody - SportTechie - June 2nd, 2021
- Micron Technology to Report Fiscal Third Quarter Results on June 30, 2021 - Yahoo Finance - June 2nd, 2021
- Harvard Licenses Technology to Obatala Sciences to Advance Discovery in Obesity, Diabetes, and Cancer - Business Wire - June 2nd, 2021
- Former head of Alphabets Loon joins Starship Technologies as new CEO - TechCrunch - June 2nd, 2021
- HRS Crisis Management Solution Delivers Turnkey Technology and Safe Hotel Options for Corporations, First Responders and Governments - Business Wire - June 2nd, 2021
- Trillions of pounds of trash: New technology tries to solve an old garbage problem - CNBC - June 2nd, 2021
- Technology companies testing anti-misinformation accuracy prompts developed by MIT research team - PRNewswire - June 2nd, 2021