Japan aims to lead Asian decarbonisation with Azec

Japan has set up the Asia Zero Emission Community (Azec) to accelerate energy transition in Asia-Pacific countries and achieve the UN’s Paris climate agreement goals.

Japan on 4 March held the first Azec ministerial meeting in Tokyo with Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The 11 countries announced a joint statement pledging to work together on carbon neutrality efforts in Asia where energy demand is rising sharply.

The statement encourages decarbonisation projects, including energy-saving, renewable energy, hydrogen, ammonia, energy storage, bioenergy and carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), while ensuring energy security for each country. It also supports investment and financial support for clean energy infrastructure.

The 2015 Paris climate agreement calls for global warming to stay “well below” a 2°C rise in pre-industrial temperatures and ideally limit it to a 1.5°C rise. The first meeting followed Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida announcing the Azec plan in January 2022. It plans to have annual ministerial meetings and regular senior official meetings.

Trade and industry minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said at the meeting that Japan will take an initiative to establish hydrogen and ammonia supply chains especially in the Indo-Pacific region.

Japan will start with a liquefied hydrogen supply chain between Kawasaki, one of the largest industrial areas in Japan, and Australia’s Victoria state, as part of an agreement among Japanese engineering firm Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI), industry gas firm Iwatani, electricity producer J-Power and trading house Sumitomo. These Japanese companies already have a demonstration project of lignite-sourced hydrogen shipping by a liquefied hydrogen carrier Suiso Frontier from Victoria to Japan. KHI also developed a 160,000m³ liquefied hydrogen carrier in April last year.

Government, private sector engagements
A total of 28 initial deals on decarbonisation projects were signed among cross-industry groups, including state-owned energy firms, after the meeting. All projects involve a range of Japanese industries to support each country’s decarbonisation goals.
Japanese engineering firm Toyo Engineering and trading house Sojitz have signed an agreement with Australia’s Queensland state-owned CS Energy to study a synthetic sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) value chain. The SAF will be produced from green hydrogen and carbon dioxide (CO2) in Queensland and exported to Asian countries.

Domestic engineering company IHI has agreed with Indonesia’s state-owned fertilizer group Pupuk Indonesia to explore producing green ammonia sourced from geothermal energy at Pupuk’s existing fertilizer plant in east Java, with a feasibility study planned to start by March 2024. The group will also study exports of ammonia and co-firing for a coal-fired power boiler at the plant.

Fellow Japanese engineering firm JGC will discuss with Malaysian natural gas company Gas Malaysia to use unused palm oil mill effluent (Pome) and empty fruits bunch for bio-methane and pellets, as well as biochemical products. Pome emits methane gas, which is 25 times more potent than CO2, in the production process of cooking oil and cosmetics, JGC said.

Other agreements covered renewable generation, blue/green ammonia and hydrogen, CCUS, biofuels, LNG and biomass.