Japanese group plans to commercialize biohydrogen production

By Erin Voegele | September 20, 2012

The Japan-based Hydrogen Innovation Town Business Research Group recently announced that it has begun verification tests for an innovative technology that produces hydrogen from biomass, specifically sewage sludge. The research group consists of Japan Blue Energy Co. Ltd., Daiwa Lease Co Ltd. Toyota Tsucho Corp. and Mitsui Chemicals Inc. Daiwa House Industry Co. Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corp. are also participating in the group as observer members.

According to information released by the HIT Business Group, the technology features JBEC’s proprietary gas Blue Tower technology. The technology is already in operating using different types of biomass. Information published to JBEC’s website noted that the company celebrated the grand opening of a plant featuring the technology in October 2011. That plant is owned by IDEX Eco Energy Co. Ltd.

The HIT Business Research Group has also commenced verification tests using sewage sludge as feedstock at JBEC’s Blue Tower new technology plant at its development center. “Through test runs at the verification plant, methodology and production of bio-hydrogen will be substantiated and followed by studies for a commercial scale bio-hydrogen production plant and model business structure,” said the group in a statement.

According to information published to JBEC’s website, the Blue Tower technology takes in biomass feedstock and converts it into a gas with high hydrogen content via a steam reaction process. “One of the main features of the Blue Tower is its thermal energy transfer system using heated ceramic balls called ‘heat carriers’ to supply the energy for the biomass pyrolysis and reforming process,” said the company in published documentation. The tower contains three vessels, including a pre-heating vessel on the top, a reforming vessel in the middle, and a pyrolysis vessel on the bottom.

As a component of the HIT business plan, the dried sewage sludge would be processed into biobased hydrogen via the Blue Tower process, with the resulting hydrogen serving the fuel cell vehicle market and the stationary fuel cell market.

“As a cooperative operation, the HIT Business Research Group will adopt expertise, human resources, and networks of participating companies for licensing, plant design and construction logistics, and distribution Blue Hydrogen technology,” said the group in a statement.