Carbon recycling, in which industries reuse carbon dioxide (CO2) as raw materials for chemicals, fuels, and minerals, has garnered attention as a measure for addressing climate change. In particular, expectations have increased for the commercialization of “methanation technologies”, an approach to synthesizing methane by combining CO2 emitted from coal-fired power plants and other facilities, with hydrogen produced by electricity derived from renewable energy.
Recently, the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) has joined forces with INPEX and Hitachi Zosen Corporations to embark on a series of methanation technology tests.
Methane, a resource with many advantages
Synthesized methane, which has almost the same components as those of natural gas, can be supplied through existing city gas infrastructures. This saves the cost of investing in any special facilities for methane usage. In addition to this, the gas is usable as an ordinary household gas and as an alternative to natural gas. With these advantages, NEDO/INPEX/Hitachi Zosen conducted a series of tests in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture at INPEX Corporation’s Nagaoka Gas Field where the Koshijihara Gas Plant test facilities are located. Here, they aim to produce methane made from CO2 emitted from the production of natural gas, and hydrogen derived from water decomposed by electricity.
World’s first test method
NEDO/INPEX/Hitachi Zosen used a plate-type reactor, which is a piece of equipment that makes up the “heart” of the test facilities and is manufactured by Hitachi Zosen Corporation. The reactor consists of layered plates in which pressurized water is used as a highly efficient medium for heat exchange and runs inside the “body” to fill in the spaces between the plates. This construction is expected to efficiently synthesize methane, collect reaction heat and, be suitable to expand the size of such methane synthesis facilities. This methanation test using a plate-type reactor and CO2 separated/corrected from gas is the world’s first.
Commercializing the technology from 2030 onwards
NEDO will study and assess the challenges of methanation technologies through a series of tests. They will advance discussions on the challenges, with a view to increasing the capacity of synthesizing methane in the future. The goal for commercialization has been set from around 2030 onward. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) will continue to support this effort taking into consideration that this technology may, in the future, be a promising measure for addressing climate change.