We spend 60 seconds with Masaharu Okubo, Chief Operating Officer of Energy Business Unit I, Mitsui & Co., Ltd.

 

Are there any inspiring or exciting hydrogen related projects that you are involved in, and would like to tell us about?

Mitsui has been engaged in a wide spectrum of hydrogen related projects, from upstream to downstream, across regions, and in various business fields.

We have participated in the world’s first Hydrogen Supply Chain demonstration project supported by Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, through a four-company Japanese consortium.  In this project, hydrogen will be produced from a natural gas liquefaction plant in Brunei, converted into liquid chemical (methylcyclohexane, “MCH”) and transported to Japan at ambient temperature and under atmospheric pressure.  Hydrogen will be extracted from MCH and supplied for use in power generation. The first shipment is scheduled for 2020, and 210 tons of hydrogen will be supplied from the project –enough to fill approximately 40,000 fuel cell vehicles. The project will contribute to developing the potential of hydrogen produced from unutilized energy in countries overseas for import to Japan, and promote large-scale utilization of hydrogen as an energy source, which is imperative to establishing a “hydrogen society” in the future.

Mitsui also holds a 25.01% stake and is the largest shareholder of Hexagon Composites ASA, the world’s leading manufacturer of plastic-lined carbon fiber reinforced pressure cylinders for gas application.  The company is well positioned in not only Natural Gas but also hydrogen supply chain with business investments in vehicle tanks for passenger vehicles and buses/trucks, ground storage, transportation, and backup power solutions.

In addition, Mitsui has an investment in Caetano Bus S.A., a Portuguese bus manufacturing company that has developed fuel cell bus with Toyota.

Our more recent activity in hydrogen business is a financial support to  FirstElement Fuel, Inc., the largest hydrogen station operator in California.  The partnership allows us to gain access to one of the most advanced markets of hydrogen mobility, and take a leading role in an initiative to reduce carbon emissions in the mobility sector.

This value-chain approach is the origin of our competitive advantage.  One of our areas of strategic focus has been in the field of global LNG value chain, and we believe that we can contribute to building a new value chain for hydrogen, with investments in key business elements of the chain and collaboration & risk sharing with our partners.  This will be an integral element of our business, and we will continue to explore new opportunities in order to establish a low-carbon and globally sustainable society.

 

What most excites you about the potential for hydrogen use globally?

We consider that hydrogen will be an important energy source for power, heat, and transportation fuel in the near future, as well as feedstock for chemicals and refineries.  Dissemination of hydrogen across industries will help the hydrogen industry grow and become cost competitive.  We will also need to see cost reduction in production and transportation of hydrogen to make the global supply chain work, and innovation in technologies such as using electrolyser with renewable energy and steam methane reforming will be vital.

 

Why did you make the decision to join the Hydrogen Council? What value do you see in this initiative and your role as a member?

We have high expectations of the Hydrogen Council with its objective to build international cooperation among governmental organizations and private companies, which will be pivotal in facilitating technology development, cost reduction, and regulatory support for hydrogen.  With 139 offices and affiliates in 66 countries worldwide, Mitsui is ready to play an important role in creating collaborations across companies, countries, and industries to build a hydrogen society for our future.