According to The Gas Review, only 36 commercial hydrogen (H2) stations had been opened in Japan at the end of January, despite originally indicating that the figure would stand at 81.

Because of these delayed openings, stations were expected to rapidly open one after the other towards the end of 2015, but the initial target of 100 stations last year could not be met and subsequently dropped to 81 with the decision to set up the remaining 19 stations later this year.

The Japanese government declared, “By the end of fiscal 2015, ending on 31st March, 2016, 100 stations are to be installed in locations in four main metropolitan areas – Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka,” and although this plan fell short, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is supplementing the cost of installing the stations.

Broken down by region, 38 of the 81 stations will be installed in the Tokyo metropolitan area, which includes Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba Prefectures. 20 stations will be installed in central Japan, which includes Aichi, Mie and Gifu Prefectures. 12 will be installed in the Kinki area, which includes Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto, whilst there will be 11 in Kyushu, which includes Fukuoka, Saga and Yamaguchi Prefectures.

With regards to stations that are presently open, there are 18 in the Tokyo metropolitan area, 10 in central Japan, and four in both the Kyushu and Kinki regions. By prefecture, Kanagawa Prefecture boasts the most stations with 18, whilst the Aichi Prefecture is not far behind on 17.

On the move

Of Japan’s 81 H2 stations, 27 feature a complete filling unit mounted on their chassis, giving them mobility. It is anticipated that these mobile units will supplement the shortage of static stations by enabling the operation of one facility in several locations.

The idea behind the mobility is to divide the week into two sections of operation: from Friday to Monday and then Tuesday through to Thursday, meaning one mobile unit can fill and supply at two separate locations. But even though mobile stations can operate at several locations, their filling capacity is significantly smaller than its stationary counterpart.

According to The Gas Review, “The mobile type is a desperate measure to compensate for the shortage of land for the stations,” and as a result, mobile stations are best suited to “the filling requirements in suburban areas where demand is small.”

The stats

In total there are 27 mobile stations, 14 onsite stations and 40 offsite stations. For onsite stations, H2 is generated at the station using city gas as the raw material. For offsite, which is the most abundant method, both compressed and liquid H2 are transported by trailer, although the amount which is usable by vehicles is still relatively small.

Onsite methods are gaining popularity though – by having a generator at the station H2 can be supplied steadily and continuously in the future. It is assumed this will raise the operational ratio across generation facilities by using these onsite facilities as H2 supply bases for neighbouring offsite stations.

Of the 81 stations, 51 have capacities of over 300 Nm3/h, which is the standard for immobile stations in the North Pacific rim country, and are able to fill between five and six vehicles. The remaining 30 stations have capacities of between 100-300 Nm3/h.

If fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) were to become more widespread, it will expand opportunities in long distance drives between cities and countryside, meaning H2 refuelling stations would be required at various points between these destinations. According to ‘The Gas Review,’ “Despite the small filling capacity, an urban type infrastructure linking major cities could well be required.” 

Out of the planned 81 stations, JX Nippon Oil and Energy has subsidised 40 of them, followed by Iwatani with 17. Toyota Tsusho operates eight stations in conjunction with industrial gas companies Iwatani, Taiyo Nippon Sanso Corporation (TNSC) and Air Liquide Kogyo Gas, along with equipment leasing company Sumitomo Mitsui Finance and Leasing.

Additionally, on 22nd March 2016, it was announced that there would be a revision in Japan’s H2 and fuel cell Strategy Roadmap in order to develop H2 energy across the country. The following goals have been outlined; FCV levels are expected to reach 40,000 by 2020, 200,000 by 2025 and 800,000 by 2030, whilst the target of H2 stations is to attain 100 locations within 2016, 160 by 2020 and 320 by 2025.

For reference, the annual demand of H2 for 200,000 FCVs is estimated to be 200.2 million m3 and 880 million m3 for 800,000 FCVs.