Multi-Module Hydrogen Pilot Plant Opens in Japan

Representatives from the Japanese technology company Asahi Kasei and its partners including the Japanese government recently celebrated the official opening of a new hydrogen pilot plant in Kawasaki, Japan. Asahi Kasei said the trial operation of four 0.8 MW modules at the site (Figure 1) is another milestone toward the realization of a commercial multi-module 100-MW-class alkaline water electrolysis system for green hydrogen production.

1. Alkaline water electrolysis pilot system. Courtesy: Asahi Kasei

The hydrogen market is expected to expand rapidly in the coming years. According to the Hydrogen Council, cumulative global installed capacity of water electrolyzers is forecasted to reach approximately 300 GW by 2030. To meet this increasing demand, Asahi Kasei is currently developing the Aqualyzer alkaline water electrolyzer optimized for the production of green hydrogen. In order to test this new system under realistic conditions in a multi-module setup, the company started constructing the pilot plant at its manufacturing site in Kawasaki in November 2022. The new facility started operation in March 2024, and on May 13, company representatives and partners gathered in Kawasaki to celebrate its official opening.

Multi-Module Approach for Easy Scale-Up

Masami Takenaka, lead executive officer at Asahi Kasei and responsible for the company’s hydrogen business, said, “This pilot facility is [a] milestone not only for Asahi Kasei, but also for the global hydrogen business in general. We believe that successfully operating our equipment in this test facility will be a door opener for commercial large-scale multi-module alkaline water electrolyzers and eventually the realization of a hydrogen society.”

For the production of green hydrogen, electrolysis systems need to respond to fluctuating power supplies from renewable energy sources such as wind or solar. In the pilot plant, four 0.8 MW Aqualyzer modules are being operated under realistic conditions, including operation during maintenance and low power supply during nighttime. In addition, the equipment is designed to simulate fluctuating power input from solar or wind power. By utilizing the data obtained from these trials, Asahi Kasei will further optimize the equipment design, operation methods, and control technology of the electrolysis system. With its multi-module approach, Asahi Kasei aims to combine up to 10 modules with a capacity of 10 MW each, enabling commercial large-scale electrolysis systems with a capacity of up to 100 MW (Figure 2).

2. Role of the water electrolyzer pilot plant. Courtesy: Asahi Kasei

Start of Commercialization in 2025

Asahi Kasei’s hydrogen business is based on more than four decades of large-scale and long-term experience in the field of chlor-alkali electrolysis. Aiming for a total sales volume of ¥100 billion (€600 million) by 2030, the company plans to start commercial business activities for its alkaline water electrolyzers in 2025.

The pilot plant in Kawasaki is an important step toward achieving this goal. It follows the successful long-term tests of the company’s 10-MW single-stack alkaline-water electrolysis system at the Fukushima Energy Research Field (FH2R) in Namie, Fukushima, Japan, since 2020. The practical experience gained in Namie and the trial operation at the pilot plant in Kawasaki will further underpin Asahi Kasei’s market entry with large-scale and highly reliable multi-module alkaline water electrolysis equipment. This experience will also be leveraged for the joint feasibility study with Gentari and JGC for a 60-MW-class electrolyzer in Malaysia (GI-Phase 2) targeted for 2027, as announced in November 2023. 

Construction and operation of the pilot plant is supported by the “Green Innovation Fund” of Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

POWER edited this content, which was contributed by a public relations firm representing Asahi Kasei.

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