Japan’s largest natural gas supplier Tokyo Gas Co Ltd announced it has started a trial using a new technology called methanation, a process that generates methane which can be used to supplement natural gas.
The company said it will use green hydrogen sourced from renewable energy for the trial.
Methanation converts hydrogen and carbon dioxide (CO2) into synthetic methane, an alternative for the main component in natural gas. The process also removes CO2 from natural gas, and uses it to make methane instead, which can help the company reduce carbon emissions.
Methane can be used in many ways, including as a fuel to generate heat and electricity in power plants or at home, and as a raw material in the chemical industry.
The first-phase trial aims to make 12.5 normal cubic metres per hour (Nm3/h) of synthetic methane, using Hitachi Zosen’s methanation device at a research centre in Yokohama, near Tokyo.
Tokyo Gas plans to install a water electrolysis device procured from UK-based ITM Power and use renewable-based hydrogen to produce synthetic methane by March, Hisataka Yakabe, Tokyo Gas’s executive officer, said during a media tour of the facilities.
It will also use CO2 emitted and captured from nearby factories or its customers.
Tokyo Gas plans to replace about 1% of the volume of its natural gas supply with synthetic methane by 2030. It will scale up the trial in the late 2020s to produce 400 Nm3/h, followed by an overseas demonstration in 2030 that will make 20,000 Nm3/h.
“The biggest challenge is reducing cost,” Yakabe said, adding that methanation costs will still be much higher than liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices, even with inexpensive overseas renewable energy and lower hydrogen production costs.
“Cost reduction must be achieved through multiple measures,” he said.
Tokyo Gas is also trying to build global supply chains of synthetic methane, conducting feasibility studies in Malaysia with Sumitomo Corp and Petronas, and in North America and Australia with Mitsubishi Corp.
- Reuters, with editing by Neal McGrath