Japan's hydrogen fueling network expands to gas stations

Nikkei -- Feb 17
Japanese companies are moving to expand the country's still-nascent hydrogen fueling infrastructure, taking advantage of recent deregulation as Tokyo positions the fuel as central to its pivot away from carbon.

Eneos Holdings, Japan's largest oil distributor, will install hydrogen pumps at existing gas stations -- a first for the nation, according to the company. The effort will begin in the spring of 2022 with a total of two stations, in Kanagawa and Aichi prefectures. The company envisions this as a new business opportunity for its 13,000 Eneos-branded gas stations across the country.

Japan's basic policy on hydrogen in 2017 included proposals to ease regulations to encourage construction of filling stations, which had been expensive and technically challenging owing in part to strict safety requirements. Cuts to red tape have since helped the private sector move forward with new facilities -- a vital step in promoting fuel cell vehicles.

In particular, Eneos' plan to sell gasoline and hydrogen at the same location was made possible by January 2020 guidance from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on safety-related legislation.

The law had mandated that such necessary equipment as compressors be located a certain distance away from hydrogen filling stations and walled off with reinforced concrete for safety reasons. METI simplified these requirements, letting hydrogen fueling facilities be built even at downtown gas stations.

Iwatani, Japan's top hydrogen supplier, is setting up hydrogen filling stations around the country. METI guidance scrapped requirements to build sprinkler systems to cool down hydrogen storage trailers, allowing for cheaper, simpler facilities. Iwatani now has six of these under construction.

The regulatory changes span dozens of rules, covering areas including equipment materials and facility locations and management, and enabling such innovations as unstaffed fueling stations.

- Nikkei