A Hydrogen Energy and a Carbon Recycling meeting in Tokyo

On the 25th of September, two events for the future energy supply and reducing CO2 emissions took place back-to-back in Tokyo. These were the 2nd Hydrogen Energy Ministerial Meeting and the International Conference on Carbon Recycling 2019. Both were arranged by the Ministry for Energy, Trade and Industry (METI) together with their agency New Energy and Industrial Development Organisation (NEDO), and had participation from about 35 countries/regions. 

At the Hydrogen energy meeting, hydrogen energy was discussed as a possible key contributor to combat the climate challengers and for future clean, safe and affordable energy. The world’s interest and need of hydrogen energy were claimed to be high, and the next 10 years is seen as critical for the success of commercializing hydrogen energy, as well as bringing down the cost of it, both regarding the production and uses.

The key messages from the meeting, for making hydrogen energy a common energy resource in the future, were:

  • The cost of producing hydrogen needs to be reduced, and hydrogen energy should be generated from clean energy (not from fossil fuels, which is common today). There is a strong belief in the importance of R&D to achieve a cost reduction to an acceptable level.
  • There is a need for harmonization of regulations, codes, and standards. Governments need to promote industries to invest in environmentally friendly hydrogen energy and deal with regulations barriers.
  • Create an infrastructure to facilitate distribution. Could be creating gas-grids, storage places and refueling stations that can assist the adoption of hydrogen energy.
  • A global spread of technology and fuel. For traditional businesses, hydrogen energy needs to be accessible everywhere and with clear regulations to be able to compete with traditional energy. 
  • Invest in R&D and enable large scale projects within hydrogen energy. International cooperation and information sharing are fundamental for the development and promotion of the technology. 

At the ministerial meeting, the NEDO chairman Ishizuki pointed out that we cannot afford to bother about national borders in combating the coming climate challenges. There is a need for action by governments all over the world. Furthermore, an ambitious vision was declared during the meeting, “Ten, Ten, Ten” which aims for “10 million hydrogen-powered systems and 10 thousand Hydrogen Refueling Stations (HRS) within 10 years”. It is meant to encourage the future use and development of hydrogen and fuel cells, rather than to be a mandatory goal.

Further information from the meeting can be found at the official chair’s summary.

As for the International Conference on Carbon Recycling, the creation of an industry of carbon recycling was discussed. Such is seen as an important step to realize the goals on reducing CO2 emission level. In February this year, Japan established a Carbon Recycling Promotion Office at the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (under METI). The office aims to stimulate innovations in the field of capturing and harnessing carbon dioxide. In preparation for the G20 meeting this summer, a roadmap of relevant technologies for the 2050 targets was formulated by this office and presented to the G20 participants. 

During the conference, technologies for CO2 Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) for carbon recycling were discussed. CCUS could be used for producing chemicals and plastics, synthetic natural fuel with low CO2 emission, and for construction materials, such as concrete and cement. 

An interesting fact highlighted at the conference is that in 1987 fossil fuel represented 81% of the world’s energy demand, and in 2018 this percentage is still the same and that introducing carbon recycling could change this. Also, the possibility to create geothermal methanol from CO2 was discussed. The Norwegian Minister of Petroleum and Energy declared that carbon capturing already has a long history in Norway, and that cooperation with the industry is important to succeed, but that more R&D is needed.

On the 23rd of January this year, Japan’s Prime Minister Abe held a speech where he highlighted the importance of R&D and innovation to tackle climate change. He declared that removing CO2 will be required to limit human-caused CO2 emission, and for this carbon recycling technologies can be fundamental, including i.e. artificial photosynthesis. He ends by stating that “spending money for a green earth and a blue ocean, once deemed costly, is now a growth generator”. He clearly believes in investing in this area and is encouraging others to do the same.