A closer look at the world’s first liquid hydrogen carrier

Taking a leap towards cleaner energy and cutting carbon emission, a Japanese-Australian venture that produces hydrogen from brown coal, set sail as the world’s first liquid hydrogen carrier called Suiso Frontier, made by Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI).

The hydrogen carrier whose test was delayed by nearly a year due to the pandemic, arrived in Australia this week from Kobe, after a long trip then its expected 16 days range for arrival as the owners wanted to avoid bad weather and rough seas. The ship is scheduled to head back to Japan in a weeks’ time, said a spokesperson of the venture, Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC).

The Japanese-Australian Venture: Suiso Frontier

The project worth $360 million is led by KHI and is supported by the Japanese and Australian governments as they look to make operations cleaner and greener.

It was last year that the extraction of hydrogen from brown coal started. 70kg of coal was processed in a day in a demonstration plant in the Latrobe Valley in the state of Victoria which is about 135 km east of Melbourne.

The hydrogen is produced by reacting coal with oxygen and steam under high heat and pressure, in the process carbon dioxide is also produced. Afterwards, the gas is trucked to a port site where it is cooled to minus 253 degrees Celsius (minus 423 Fahrenheit), liquefying it for export.

Hydrogen has been seen as a path to decarbonizing industries that rely on coal, gas, and oil. Japan has set a goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Australia on the other hand also aims to become a major exporter of fuel.

The Australian government on Friday committed a further A$7.5 million for HESC’s A$184 million pre-commercialization phases and A$20 million for testing a capture and storage project for carbon dioxide released in the coal-to-hydrogen process to create a carbon-neutral product.

The partners of the project include Japan’s Electric Power Development Co (J-Power), Iwatani Corp, Marubeni Corp, Sumitomo Corp, and Australia’s AGL Energy Ltd, whose mine is supplying brown coal.

FILE PHOTO: The liquefied hydrogen carrier SUISO FRONTIER, built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and is due to transport its first cargo of hydrogen extracted from brown coal from Australia to Japan, is docked at Kobe Works yard in Kobe, western Japan January 22, 2021. REUTERS/Yuka Obayashi

The partners wish to scale the project up to 225,000 tonnes a year and they are planning to make carbon-neutral hydrogen by burying the carbon dioxide released in the process under the seabed offshore Victoria.

The mobility industry is seeing rapid changes in terms of electrification and usage of cleaner fuels in order to reduce greenhouse gases emission. Last year, a Norwegian company made what it claimed to be the world’s first no emission, autonomous cargo ship, Yara Birkeland. It has been created by a chemical company called Yara International.

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