Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) launched Susio Frontier, the world’s first liquified hydrogen carrier, at its Kobe shipyard on 11 December, although the vessel’s completion isn’t expected for a further year.
The Susio Frontier represents the first stage in a Shell-backed project in which hydrogen derived from brown coal in Australia will be shipped to Kobe in Japan. Two vacuum-insulated storage tanks, currently being constructed by Japan’s Harima Works and each capable of holding 1,250m3 of liquid hydrogen at a temperature of -253°C, will be installed onboard the 116m vessel in the latter part of 2020.
KHI was the first Asian yard to construct an LNG carrier, Bishu Maru, in 1983, and the Susio Frontier draws heavily upon that expertise. However, to achieve the additional insulation new technologies were required, such as the glass-fibre reinforced polymers that will be used for the tank support structures.
Motohiko Nishimura, the head of KHI’s hydrogen development centre said: “At present, this is the only ship in the world to apply the International Maritime Organization’s interim safety standard for carrying liquid hydrogen [IGC Code Type C], and when it completes its trials in 2020, we hope its approach to safety will become a de facto standard.”
Japan is investing heavily in the development of hydrogen as a carbon-free alternative fuel. In September, at its annual Hydrogen Ministerial Meeting in Tokyo, Japan received support from more than 30 countries for a plan to set up more than 10,000 ‘hydrogen refuelling stations’ worldwide within the next decade. It also set non-binding goals to produce more than 10 million hydrogen-powered mobility systems for different modes of transportation worldwide during the same period.
However, the country’s topography and population density make it unsuitable for large-scale implementation of renewable energy projects, meaning that the importing is the most viable method of sourcing fuel.
In 2016, KHI joined Shell Japan, hydrogen producer Iwatani and Electric Power Development (J-Power) as a partner in the Hydrogen Energy Supply-Chain Technology Research Association (HySTRA). The project, which is broken into two parts, has been exploring both the technologies for the gasification of brown coal and the long-range transportation of the liquified hydrogen derived from it.
KHI has estimated that for 20% of Japan’s total electricity generation switched to hydrogen by 2050 would require around 80 large-scale hydrogen carriers and eventually hopes to develop a vessel capable of carrying 160,000m3.