A consortium in Japan says it has “realised the world’s first international hydrogen supply chain”, after successfully extracting H2 from a liquid organic hydrogen carrier (LOHC) shipped from Brunei.

The Advanced Hydrogen Energy Chain Association for Technology Development (AHEAD) demonstration project aims to show that a global hydrogen supply chain can be established using LOHC — a chemical that can safely transport hydrogen at room temperature and ambient pressure. This is in contrast to compressed hydrogen and liquid H2, which requires near-absolute-zero temperatures.

The LOHC being used here is toluene (C7H8), one of the many components of crude oil. Hydrogen produced in Brunei is added to the toluene to create methycyclohexane (C7H14), before being shipped more than 4,000km inside containerised tanks to Kawasaki City in Japan, where the hydrogen is extracted at a dehydrogenation plant. The “unloaded” toluene is then shipped back to Brunei to be re-used.

“The commencement of global hydrogen supply chain is a notable step towards the realisation of [a] CO2-free ‘Hydrogen Society’,” said the AHEAD consortium — which includes Japanese conglomerates Mitsubishi, Mitsui and Chiyoda Corp and is funded by the Japanese government-sponsored New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

For an analysis of LOHC and other methods of transporting hydrogen, click here.