Social Issues addressed by Sumitomo —Compass for the Future—
Precision technology to "make, transport, and use" hydrogen
Helping establish a hydrogen value chain for decarbonization
Sumitomo Precision Products began manufacture of large aluminum alloy plate-fin heat exchangers for cryogenic industrial applications in 1963 and of liquefied natural gas (LNG) vaporizers in 1969. The company has played a key technological role in establishing a value chain in which natural gas is extracted from overseas gas fields, liquefied at coastal facilities, transported by sea as LNG, vaporized at receiving terminals in Japan, and used as natural gas.
Sulfur and other pollutants are removed during the liquefaction process of natural gas. Compared with oil and coal, natural gas emits less CO2 during combustion and has higher power generation efficiency. LNG has been promoted as an essential component of the energy mix since the Oil crisis of 1973 and in Japan it accounts for a large proportion of the power supply mix (37.1% in fiscal 2019).
In April 2022, Sumitomo Precision Products launched a thermal management project team encompassing two businesses, the industrial heat exchanger and the aircraft heat exchanger businesses. Aiming to "promote post-5G and digital society and contribute to the realization of a decarbonized society," the company is stepping up technological development and business expansion in new field by leveraging its technologies cultivated in the field of electronic component cooling and cryogenic fluid, such as electric motor cooling technology, data center cooling technology, and development of hydrogen/ammonia heat exchanger.
In 2017, Japan formulated the world’s first national hydrogen strategy, the Basic Hydrogen Strategy, to address global warming and climate change. In light of the 2050 Carbon Neutrality Declaration, Japan’s sixth Strategic Energy Plan, announced in 2021, envisions that hydrogen and ammonia will account for about 1% of the power mix in fiscal 2030. The Basic Hydrogen Strategy was revised in 2023 to accelerate initiatives for transition to a hydrogen economy. Japan’s targets are to increase the use of hydrogen to 3 million tons/year by 2030 and to approximately 20 million tons/year by 2050. To realize a hydrogen economy, the public and private sectors plan to make investments in the supply chain exceeding 15 trillion yen over 15 years. The process flow of establishing a hydrogen value chain and its social implementation has much in common with that for natural gas at the time of the first imports of LNG to Japan. Demonstrations have been completed for "making" in which hydrogen is liquefied overseas, "transportation" in which it is transported by sea to Japan, and "use" in which hydrogen is vaporized and used.
Sumitomo Precision Products is focusing on the "making" and "use" of hydrogen. With regard to technology for the "use" of hydrogen, the company began manufacture of stainless steel diffusion bonded heat exchangers in 2015. With their high durability for ultra-high-pressure, these heat exchangers has be adopted continuously for hydrogen supply equipment installed at hydrogen charging stations for fuel cell vehicles.
For hydrogen-fueled ships, the company is developing heat exchangers that vaporize liquefied hydrogen. In the aerospace field, development of hydrogen-fueled aircraft has begun, requiring systems and heat exchanger for vaporizing liquefied hydrogen. As social implementation of the liquefied hydrogen supply chain progresses toward 2050, it is expected that even more vaporizers will be needed, and Sumitomo Precision Products will vigorously promote development of new heat exchangers.
In May 2023, Sumitomo Precision Products concluded a joint development agreement with Iwatani Corporation for open rack vaporizers (ORVs) that vaporize liquefied hydrogen. Iwatani is sole liquefied hydrogen supplier in Japan, and is strong in hydrogen sales. Iwatani play a role for establishing a hydrogen supply network and operating liquefied hydrogen receiving terminals in Japan. Iwatani is developing infrastructure equipment to accelerate hydrogen-related business.
Sumitomo Precision Products have delivered a lot of ORVs as LNG vaporizers, and the company had sensed a demand for ORVs as liquefied hydrogen. However, since liquefied hydrogen temperature is even lower at -253 oC compared to LNG at -162 oC, it was necessary to conduct verification test to confirm that ORV could satisfy the performance requirements. The Iwatani R&D Center in Amagasaki City, Hyogo Prefecture, has one of the few liquefied hydrogen testing facilities in Japan. Its proximity to Sumitomo Precision Products’ head office in Amagasaki City facilitated the joint development of ORVs for liquefied hydrogen between the two companies.
Since hydrogen liquefaction reduces the volume to approximately 1/800th, large amounts of hydrogen can be transported by ship and other means. The transported liquefied hydrogen is stored in tank at receiving terminals, vaporized as necessary, and supplied to power plant etc. for use. ORV has a lot of heat exchanger tubes. Seawater flow on the surface of the tubes and liquefied hydrogen is vaporized in the tubes. The technology, originally adopted for LNG vaporizers over half a century ago, is converted to liquefied hydrogen vaporizers. ORVs have outstanding features for high reliability and safety because operating cost is saved since heat source is seawater, and operation and maintenance are easy since components are very simple.
Realizing a decarbonized society and achieving carbon neutrality, it is expected that various markets will expand, such as the use of hydrogen as an energy source, the use of ammonia; the reduction, capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) of CO2 emissions; the development of hydrogen-fueled vehicles, ships, and aircraft; the development of synthetic fuel using hydrogen and CO2; and the technological development of hydrogen reduction steelmaking. Under its slogan, "With precision technologies and precision manufacturing, we innovate the world’s highest quality of precision that supports a sustainable society, ahead of anyone else," Sumitomo Precision Products will continue its quest for the ultimate in precision technologies and precision manufacturing, thereby contributing to the resolution of pressing social issues through its business.
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