THE LATEST FUEL CELL NEWS IN JAPAN, JULY 2001

Arranged by T. HOMMA
1. National Policy
2. Business Development of PAFC
3. Research and Development of SOFC
4. Development of PEFC and Project
5. Stationary PEFC
6. Development and Commercialization of PEFC for Households
7. Movement of Fuel Related Technology
8. Business Activity

1. National Policy
(1) Total Energy Investigation Subcommittee (Suggestion of support for the seek of use of DME and GTL)
   Natural Gas Subcommittee of Total Resource and Energy Investigating Group (a consultative body of the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry) made a report titled "Ideal Method of Natural Gas Policy." They concluded that the series of support measures are necessary for the preparation of infrastructure and regulations for promoting the new utilization forms of Dimethylether (DME) and gas-to-liquid (GTL) that are produced during the reform of the natural gas. Synthetic gas is produced by natural gas, and DME is then made through methanol. Although its heat capacity is small, it excels in the environment since it does not consist sulfur. It is considered as an alternative of LPG for the fuels of industry and transportation. GTL is made through synthetic gas produced by natural gas, and the synthetic oil is produced through the catalytic reactions. GTL also does not consist sulfur and aromatic compounds. It is high in cetane number and has a great property of combustion, thus it is considered to be a base for the internal combustion fuel in 2010.
(The Chemical Daily, May 28, 2001)

(2) Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
   The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry clarified that it is thought to be effective to introduce two methods such as "fuel reforming type" and "hydrogen storing type" for the FCV.
(The Daily Automotive News, June 9, 2001)

(3) Ministry of the Environment
   The garbage generation plant using FC, which has been constructed in Kobe by Fuji Denki ordered by the Ministry of the Environment, is completed in the end of June. This plant generates electricity by FC using the produced gas from the fermenting treatment of garbage. The cost for the construction is little over 500 million yens. This is the first practical garbage FC generating plant in Japan. It generates 100kW from 6 tons of garbage. The proof test will be started in July and will be continued for 3 years.
(Nihon Keizai Shimbun, June 16, 2001 and Denpa Shimbun, June 22, 2001)

(4) NEDO Project
   NEDO decided 4 themes of research and development of SOFC, which will be conducted by the subsidy from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Themes are as follows: ‡@Toto : technological development of thermal independent module (moist cylindrical form), ‡AMitsubishi Heavy Industries and Chubu Electric Power Company: technological development of thermal independent module (unified stack form), ‡BTokyo Gas: elemental research on the expansion of applicability (research on heat-resistant shocked type cell stack), and ‡CMitsubishi Heavy Industries: elemental research on the expansion of applicability (research of advanced cylindrical type cell).
(Denpa Shimbun, May 30, 2001)
 

2. Business Development of PAFC
(1) Fuji Electric Co., Ltd.
   Fuji Electric Co., Ltd. announced that they will start to sell 50/100kW PAFC this fall. That is 100kW type which is reduced the cost by 30% compared with the original one. This system is their original brand "Fueru Denchi-kun (Increasing Battery)". They will expand the market through some major gas companies for the use of the biogas system and co-generation. This PAFC is commercialized by based on the joint development of Tokyo Gas, Osaka Gas, and Toho Gas. They have been working on the improvement of reliability with conducting the field tests over and over. Since 50kW type is added to the subject of national subsidy of FC introduction support project, Fuji Electric enters 50kW type into market along with the traditional 100kW ones.
(Denki Shimbun, June 20, 2001)

(2) Installing to Nishijima Hospital in Numazu-City
   Under the national LP gas co-generation install subsidy system, a medical corporation Shinwakai in Numazu called "Nishijima Hospital" installs 200kW PAFC using LP gas. The chairperson Mr. Nishijima said, "The usual independent generation system can only generate for a few hours, however, this LP gas FC can continuously generate for three days using the fuel tank. Town gas has a risk that the supply may be shut down by the earthquake, but propane is good in mobility. This system can apply to disaster and also reduce the environmental load to neighbors, thus we introduce this system." The rate of the energy saving using this system will be 30.6%. LP gas PAFC is developed by Toshiba Corporation and Nippon Petroleum Gas Co., Ltd., and gas will be supplied by Numazu Oxygen Kogyo. The cost is 150 million yens, and subsidy is 75 million yens.
(Shizuoka Shimbun, June 7, 2001)
 

3. Research and Development of SOFC
   Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding Co, Ltd. accelerates the research and development of SOFC and announced that they aim for the practical use of combined cycle generation technology in two years, in which 10kW class module and GT are combined to obtain 60% of the thermal efficiency. They are developing the plane type SOFC. They had been conducting the research on elemental technologies by joining the NEDO project. At the end of this project, they started the promoting system of research and development of SOFC with electric power companies. Some major research issues are production of parts of SOFC stack, development for the improvement of performance, evaluation by generation test, construction of co-generation system using SOFC, and evaluation of its properties. Also, development of ceramics materials and constructions of design, evaluation, processing, and molding technologies of fireproof materials are also important issues.
   For the gas turbine that will be combined with 10kW class SOFC, that of Solar Company, U.S.A. will be made; they enter the package contract with them. Also, for the steam turbine, they are planning to use Mitsui-GEC Alstom type turbine. Natural gas and coal gas are broadly considered for the fuel. Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding carries out the research by considering also solar energy as its fuel.
(The Chemical Daily, June 5, 2001)
 
4. Development of PEFC and Project
(1) Japan Storage Battery CO., Ltd.
   Since Japan Storage Battery CO., Ltd. is the leading company of the automobile battery, they have a high motivation to enter the FCV field and have been preparing to start the supply of FC in 2004. They already established several original technologies for PEFC. Using those own technologies, they will complete the sample of several kW class system within 2003, and they will set the mass production line in that same year. The original technological results are the establishment of electrode formation method that can carry the platinum catalyst selectively to the effective area using gas diffusion. This method does not decrease the discharge performance and can reduce the amount of platinum to 1/10. This makes possible to reduce the cost of PEFC drastically. Another result is the development of new electrolyte which improves the permeability of gas and conductivity of protons in the electrode. This enables the high output power of FC. At the beginning of supplying FC, co-generation for households will take the main part, and then the mass production for vehicles will be after 2006.
(The Chemical Daily, June 14, 2001)

(2) Sekisui Chemical Co., Ltd.
   As a part of results of the joint research with Energy Material Group's leader Mr. Kaku Homma of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Sekisui Chemical Co., Ltd. announced that they developed the solid polymer electrolyte for PEFC which has high conductivity of ion at a high temperature. This is an organic and inorganic combined diaphragm of non-fluorine and non-sulfone materials which has the flexibility of organic material and heat resistivity of inorganic materials. This possesses 10-2 S/cm of hydrogen ion conductivity in the range of from room temperature to 160Ž. Sekisui Chemical and AIST already succeeded in the 10-3 S/cm of hydrogen ion conductivity with the development of proton conductivity organic and inorganic combined polymer electrolyte in which Silica (inorganic ) is combined at both ends of polyether (organic) synthesized by Zolgel method. To obtain higher conductivity at high temperature, they use polyolefin instead of polyether this time, and they succeeded in the obtaining one order higher conductivity. Also, they add PWA (Hetero-poly-oxide) as supplying material of proton conductivity. The proton conductivity of fluorine electrolyte which is generally used to PEFC is about 0.1S/cm, but since sulfone base, which takes role in the proton conductivity, leaves with the increase of temperature, it must be designed to have operation temperature of 80 to 90C. Operation of FC at high temperature leads to the higher thermal efficiency and the effective use of the exhaust heat. Also, the cooling system will be simpler when loaded on the vehicles. In addition, when using reforming gas, it can avoid the catalyst deterioration by CO. Thus many advantages are considered.
(The Chemical Daily, June 6, 2001)
 

5. Stationary PEFC
   Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding Co, Ltd. announced that they started the construction of biogas proof plant of high temperature fermentation type. It is the first in Japan. The plant has been constructed in the farm of Obihiro Agricultural College in Hokkaido. It will be completed in February 2002 and the research and proof test will be conducted for 5 years until 2006. They will prove the ability of methane ferment disposal of excrements of livestock. Also, they are aiming for the establishment of the effective utilization technology of methane fermentative liquid and the complex energy transforming technology by FC. This system is a biogas plant which is developed by Denmark subsidiary company of Mitsui which using high temperature fermenting method (53-55Ž), and it has already been used for more than 10 years in Denmark. The outline of the proof plant is that a gas engine (15kW) and 250W PEFC (Matsushita Electric Works, Ltd.) are set as the generation system for the disposals excretions and organic garbage of 4 tons per day.
(The Chemical Daily, Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, June 1, 2001)
 
6. Development and Commercialization of PEFC for Households
   TOYOTA Motor Corporation decided to commercialize the residential PEFC in 2004. The aim is for support the residential business that is under depression now. Vehicles and Houses are considered to be the biggest markets for the PEFC. For the household PEFC, gas industries are competing the development aiming for the practical use of that in 2004. By the join of TOYOTA which possesses the most advanced technology, the development competence become tougher. TOYOTA uses technologies of subsidiary companies that jointly develop the FCV. They are planning to construct a model house near the site of Aichi international exposition which will be held in 2005. General sales will be in 2008 as the earliest. If that so, that will be earlier than FCV which is aiming for the mass production in 10 years. They said that they will aim for the broad areas of commercialization. Gasoline method is researched as for fuel, thus there is a possibility in which gasoline will be used for the household.
(Tokyo Shimbun, May 30, 2001)
 
7. Movement of Fuel Related Technology
   Professor Ichikawa, the Catalyst Chemical Research Center of University of Hokkaido contrives the storage and transport system of hydrogen using the organic fuel and he suggested it. In this system, when hydrogen and catalyst are added to benzene and naphthalene, they become cyclohexane and decarin that are liquid similar to kerosene. Using this phenomenon, hydrogen is stored and transported. In the idea, decarin is transported to houses and gas stations by a tanker, then hydrogen is produced there as fuel. The experiment achieved to produce 250 L of hydrogen in a minute. Since decarin returns to naphthalene after emission of hydrogen, the storage and transport cycle of the hydrogen is formed by collecting those naphthalene and apply the same process. Professor Ichikawa said that the test plant will be operated in the summer of 2001 in Muroran, Hokkaido and aim for the practical use in 1 or 2 years from now.
(Tokyo Shimbun, June 4, 2001)

   The industry-university co-operating organization called "Organic Hydride Utilization System for FC Research Team" is started aiming for the research on "hydrogen storage and supply system for fuel cell using liquid organic materials" such as decarin and others. Five universities including University of Hokkaido and Science University of Tokyo and 29 companies including Kansai Electric Power Company, Osaka Gas, Japan Energy, Sekisui Chemical, and Mitsubishi Chemical. The first general meeting was held, and Professor Takao Kashiwagi, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology was chosen as a president, Professor Masaru Ichikawa, Catalyst Chemical Research Center of University of Hokkaido and Mr. Taizo Hasegawa, the chief manager of Total Technology Research Center of Kansai Electric Power Company were chosen as vice presidents. This meeting will work on the progression in the development of storage and supply technology of hydrogen and facilities. Also they will seek markets and continue the research for the formation of infrastructure and other social systems. In addition, they will send information for bringing those systems into practical uses.
(Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun, June 4, 2001, The Daily Automotive News, June 18, 2001, See The Latest News No. 59, 13 (1) as a reference)
 

8. Business Activity
   To strengthen the business system of the new energy project such as natural gas and FC, Nippon Mitsubishi Oil Corporation (Nisseki Mitsubishi) has newly started "New Energy Headquarter" as of July 1, 2001. This is the part of the strategy for breaking into the total energy company that is the mid-term management policy. In the new energy headquarter, there will be a gas department which unifies the projects of natural gas and LNG, TES department for co-generation, and FC department which put FC related groups together. FC related groups were usually dispersed into several departments, but they are unified as one FC department this time, and they will work for the early start of FC business.
(The Japan Industrial Journal, Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, May 28, 2001, and Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun June 1, 2001)
 

-This edition is made up as of June 24, 2001.-